Low voter turnout likely for iwi's $87m treaty deal

Just a third of Taranaki's Te Atiawa iwi members are expected to vote on whether to accept their historic $87 million Treaty of Waitangi settlement this week.

Voting on the deed of settlement closes at noon on Thursday and the result will determine whether the iwi gets their millions or sees their claim pushed to the back of the queue.

The settlement is Taranaki's largest to date and includes options to buy more than 100 North Taranaki properties, including the former Barrett St hospital and the New Plymouth police station and court building.

It also includes a Crown apology for the Taranaki wars, land confiscations and land sale practices that deprived the iwi of the economic use of their assets.

Te Atiawa Authority chairwoman Wikitoria Keenan said she expected 80 per cent of votes from iwi to opt for accepting the full and final settlement.

Of the iwi's estimated 5500 eligible voters she predicted just 1500 would cast their ballots and she is hoping for a late rush of voters.

The Government does not require an absolute majority of the iwi to accept the settlement before pushing through with the deal but a resounding "no" would probably delay any future agreement for decades.

"Voting is important. Members' votes will determine whether or not the deed of settlement is accepted but more so because the outcome of the vote will determine the future of Te Atiawa," Keenan said.

The low voting turnout could be partly because not everyone in the iwi agrees with the settlement. Last month Keenan and other settlement negotiators were shut out of a hui to discuss the deal at Waitara's Owae Marae. At the time, Glen Skipper, of Te Atiawa hapu Ngati Tawhirikura, said the hapu's voice had not been heard and the settlement in its current form did not fit with its goals.

Settlement negotiator Peter Moeahu said iwi, like all family, did not always see eye to eye. "We know we are pretty near perfect but we do tend to disagree with each other. Just like politicians, just like councillors."

All iwi members 18 years old and over are eligible to vote in the confidential ballot. Voting papers have been sent to all those eligible and can be cast via post, online or in person at ratification hui, the last of which were held yesterday.

South Taranaki iwi Ngaruahine are also voting this week on whether to accept a $67m settlement.

Taranaki Daily News