Small iwi to join class action

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2013

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A small Coromandel tribe who say the Waitangi settlement process will "ethnically cleanse" them from their region is set to join a nationwide class action suit against the Crown.

Ngati Huarere from the northern end of the peninsula and five other iwi were left out of the Hauraki Collective claim because they failed to meet settlement criteria.

Negotiations for the Hauraki claim were expected to be completed next year and Huarere advocate Tony Brljevich, whose wife Wanda is of Ngati Huarere, said their exclusion had devastated the tribe.

They planned to join the class action which aimed to prove the settlement process was flawed and Brljevich said Crown policy pitted tribe against tribe.

"They are trying to ethnically cleanse Hauraki of any tribe which is not part of the 12 tribes and they are trying to subsume them under themselves to take control of those tribes assets."

Despite Hauraki tribal elders endorsing Ngati Huarere's position, they were continually left out of the collective claim and legal action may follow.

"There is going to be a whole lot of legal stuff so that's why we were looking at the class action because they are challenging the Crown's process and the Crowns process is blatantly discriminatory," he said.

Crown preference is to settle claims with large "natural groups" for ease of process and to deal with overlapping interests but Brljevich said the policy was designed to "divide and conquer" and Ngati Huarere would lose their history and mana.

"They won't even talk to us," Brljevich said. "The Crown - as far as they are concerned, we don't exist."

The Hauraki Collective included 12 iwi - including Ngai Tai, Ngati Paoa, Ngati Whanaunga, Ngati Maru, Ngati Tamatera and Ngati Hei - from the region and laid claim to 2 million acres of land and sea from Matakana Island near Tauranga to Matakana, north of Auckland.

Last week, five iwi from the collective purchased the Pouarua dairy farms near Ngatea for $53 million with an advance payout from what is believed to be a $100 million claim.

The Waitangi Tribunal disagreed that Ngati Huarere was a distinct group and did not have customary interests separate to that of other Hauraki tribes.

Last week, Wellington-based Treaty lawyer Moana Sinclair visited Taranaki to explain the details of the pending class action. Manawatu based iwi Rangitane and five hapu from Taranaki have expressed an interest.

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- Fairfax Media

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