Top of south iwi aim for 'one voice'

South Island iwi groups aim to speak with "one voice" – a move signalled in the signing of a watershed agreement in Nelson on Saturday.

The formal relationship agreement signed between top of the South Island iwi Ngati Tama and a key arm of South Island iwi Ngai Tahu will cement the shared whakapapa and intertwined historical associations of the two iwi. The ultimate vision is for all South Island iwi to work with one voice, Ngati Tama chairman Fred Te Miha said today.

"The vision is one voice for the South Island, while different iwi keep their own identity. We hope it will come to that," Mr Te Miha said.

Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, which co-signed the agreement, is the organisation that services South Island iwi Ngai Tahu's statutory rights and ensures that the benefits of the treaty settlement grow for the future generations. Ngati Tama is one of eight iwi located in the top of the South Island, stretching from Marlborough, through Nelson and across to Golden Bay.

Mr Te Miha said the landmark agreement reflects the positive relations between the tribes. He said Ngati Tama and Ngai Tahu have a "mana ki mana" relationship, which has been recognised in the agreement.

"With Ngati Tama's impending settlement, it was time for the two iwi to come together to reinforce and to take to a more formal level the pre-existing and very close relationship. This demonstrates the authority of both tribes and our desire to operate constructively and proactively together. The agreement recognises the good faith that exists between us and the willingness of our tribes to work together."

Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere (chairman) Mark Solomon said the signing of the agreement was a poignant occasion for Te Runanga.

"This agreement creates a foundation on which the relationship between Ngati Tama and Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu can foster a shared kaupapa."

Ngati Tama and Ngai Tahu have shared mutual aspirations over the years. They are inaugural members of Treaty Tribes Coalition, which was formed in 1994 to represent iwi and advocate for the allocation of fisheries settlement assets on principled terms reflecting tikanga, the Treaty of Waitangi and the fisheries settlement itself. The two iwi have also worked alongside on foreshore and seabed issues and have shown solidarity through the Waitangi Tribunal and Treaty Settlement processes.

Mr Te Miha, who was instrumental in drawing up the agreement, said Ngati Tama was the first to sign with Ngai Tahu.

"It was a very big occasion," he said.

Fairfax Media