Ngapuhi on road to Treaty claim after reaching agreement over negotiations

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has received confirmation that Ngapuhi can push ahead with a settlement.
GRANT MATTHEW / FAIRFAX NZ

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has received confirmation that Ngapuhi can push ahead with a settlement.

The country's largest iwi is on the brink of negotiating an historic Treaty claim after years of internal squabbling saw the Government threaten to take it off the table.

Tuhoronuku, the board set up by the Crown to negotiate the Ngapuhi settlement process and which has received millions of taxpayer's dollars, has done a U-turn and agreed to forgo its mandate and support a new board being set up.

While Tuhoronuku still currently holds the mandate, the Waitangi Tribunal found it undermined the right of hapu to choose who spoke for them. A report titled Maranga Mai followed, which recommended a new structure be created and give hapu control of negotiations.

Division and resignations have been flying in the last few weeks as members of Tuhoronuku were split over whether or not to adopt the recommendations of Maranga Mai.

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After first refusing to accept the recommendations in their entirety and a threat from Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson that they either sorted it out or risked losing their chance, Tuhoronuku has finally agreed to Maranga Mai.

In a letter on Friday from Tuhoronuku chair Hone Sadler to Finlayson the board set out their support for Maranga Mai and "progressing to the transition process".

It's understood the change of tune from Tuhoronuku, who had previously twice voted against the report's full recommendations, came after Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell intervened at Cabinet and told Finlayson to show good will.

Up until the Cabinet meeting last week Finlayson had stressed that time was of the essence and Tuhoronuku were at risk of having the Crown strip them of their mandate.

But in a letter to Sadler three days after Cabinet met, Finlayson had softened his position and stressed the Government's "hope of moving forward".

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"I am encouraged by your sentiment that what is most important is Ngapuhi taking the next step together," Finlayson wrote.

It's understood Flavell, who has removed himself from the Cabinet decision, citing a conflict of interest because of his iwi connections, encouraged the Government to not only give Tuhoronuku time to work through issues but to let them do it on their own terms.

Consequently Tuhoronuku have agreed to move forward with a new structure but are still negotiating with Finlayson how many representatives they have on the new board.

And for that reason the official line from Finlayson remains that he is "communicating directly with Tuhoronuku and has no further comment at this time".

 - Stuff

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