Upper South Island iwi are welcoming a High Court decision that allows them to become involved in the Wakatu Incorporation's case against the Crown, which they oppose.
The Crown has suspended Treaty settlement negotiations with top of the South Island iwi because it's concerned Wakatu's legal action could result in the same people being paid twice for the same claims. Wakatu accuses the Crown of stalling to put pressure on it not to proceed.
Upper South Island iwi say they've been forced to join the proceedings to protect their rights to negotiate and settle.
Ngati Kuia iwi negotiator Mark Moses said the High Court's decision to allow them to become involved partly validated "the serious concerns we have about what Wakatu is trying to do".
"The issues that Wakatu have taken the Crown to court over are actually being dealt with by the Treaty settlement process.
"That process is between iwi and the Crown and not some corporate entity that only came into being in the 1970s. This corporation must not be allowed to run away with issues that are for iwi to deal with."
Mr Moses said Ngati Kuia, Ngati Apa and Rangitane had all signed deeds of settlement but could not finish the process because the Wakatu court action had delayed the introduction to Parliament of settlement legislation for all settlements in the top of the South Island.
Four other upper South Island iwi – Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama, Ngati Rarua and Ngati Koata, represented by the bargaining group Tainui Taranaki – have had their settlement negotiations stalled. The Wakatu Incorporation is also part of Tainui Taranaki.
Ngati Koata principal negotiator Roma Hippolite said three of the four iwi, Ngati Tama, Ngati Rarua and Ngati Koata, had been granted High Court permission to join the case.
"We're looking forward to the opportunity to be able to test and challenge the standing of Wakatu." Te Atiawa hadn't sought to become involved, he said.
Wakatu Incorporation chief executive Keith Palmer said it was happy for the iwi to be involved in the proceedings because that was their right, just as it was Wakatu's right to take the action.
It was the only group representing the rights of individual families, whereas iwi were representing groups, he said. "There's a subtle difference."
The two-week-long case is set to be heard by the High Court at Wellington in March and April.
A spokesman for Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said the High Court had decided not to grant intervener status to Ngati Kuia but invited it to make further submissions clarifying its position.
The minister preferred the Te Tau Ihu settlement legislation to go through Parliament at the same time.
"If the Wakatu action is not disposed of in a timely fashion however, the minister has undertaken that Kurahaupo group's settlement legislation – this is Ngati Kuia, Ngati Apa and Rangitane – will not be unduly delayed."
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