Ngapuhi break-away group would rather no settlement, than have the current board negotiate it

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson is a familiar face on marae around the country as he tries to push through ...
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson is a familiar face on marae around the country as he tries to push through settlements by 2020.

An iwi break-away group would rather no treaty settlement than have a Ngapuhi board keep its mandate.

On Friday the country's largest iwi met to cast a vote on how it will negotiate a settlement with the Crown - it ended with four resignations and the possibility Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson may take the offer off the table completely.

It was thought Cabinet may have discussed on Monday whether to adopt a proposal for a new structure to lead the negotiations - a product of the Maranga Mai report - or continue to work with the mandated board, Tuhoronuku​.

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Following the Cabinet meeting, a spokeswoman for Finlayson said he was considering advice from officials and would communicate with Tuhoronuku directly before making any comment.

Finlayson has already warned time is running out and if the process doesn't get underway immediately then he would scrap it from the Government's work programme - he wants all negotiations settled by 2020.

At his post-Cabinet media conference, Prime Minister John Key said a treaty settlement could only be successful if there were willing participants on both sides. 

"And they have to be full and final," he said. 

"I guess it's disappointing they haven't made faster progress, and it's a huge issue for the Far North.

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"It's an extremely large iwi and the sorts of nominal numbers that are being talked about in the treaty settlement would make a huge difference I think, in what is a pretty poor community."

But the Government could not "endlessly spend money" if it was not known who it would be going to. 

"We'll stay engaged for as long as it's realistically hoped we can get a settlement."

On Friday, iwi met in Northland where members of Tuhoronuku (which includes members of the hapu alliance break-away group) voted 14 votes to 7 in favour of adopting a variation of Maranga Mai.

Moana Tuwhare, one of those who resigned on the back of Friday's vote, said the conditions Tuhoronuku was asking for would mean things wouldn't change and hapu would continue to have no representation in the process.

Asked if she was concerned Finlayson might take the settlement off the agenda, Tuwhare said "it would be more of a concern if he didn't take it off".

"There's no trust or faith in Tuhoronuku anymore," she said.

The Maranga Mai report came out of a working group, which was established after the Waitangi Tribunal found issues with Tuhoronuku's mandate, saying it undermined the right of hapu to choose who spoke for them.

While the preference for the hapu alliance group is for the mandate to be transferred to them, Tuwhare said it was disappointing that several people on the board had switched their vote from an earlier one and supported Tuhoronuku's version of Maranga Mai.

"In the week in between the last vote, which was won by Tuhoronuku 11 votes to 10, we've lost three votes. I'm not sure who changed sides," Tuwhare said.

It's understood part of the conditions Tuhoronuku has given to Finlayson include a unified Ngapuhi settlement and representation on the new board for kuia, kaumatua and urban Maori.

Tuwhare said "in politics anything is possible" and she has no idea what decision Finlayson will take to Cabinet.

"It's been eight years and millions and millions of dollars has been put into Tuhoronuku to get to a point where the mandate is even worse than it's ever been."

 - Stuff

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