Meeting called to address iwi concerns

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2014

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Disgruntled members of Taranaki's Te Atiawa iwi will meet with the Government's chief Treaty negotiator today.

The meeting was organised after a chairman of a Te Atiawa hapu tabled his concerns about the iwi's pending settlement to the minister in charge of the process.

Glen Skipper, of Ngati Tawhirikura, sent a letter to Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson outlining several concerns he had about the pending $87 million dollar deal, which is scheduled to be signed off on August 9.

Meanwhile, the iwi membership, including Skipper, remain in the dark about just how many people voted for or against the deal. Voting by registered members to ratify Te Atiawa's settlement closed on July 17 but since then Te Atiawa Iwi Authority (TAIA) have remained tight-lipped about the specific number of people who voted and how many of those supported the deal or not.

This is at odds with information in TAIA's own ratification document, which stated results would be notified on July 27 on its website and in the newspaper.

Skipper said the lack of any announcement was indicative of how some iwi members felt they had been treated throughout the settlement process.

"It isn't a give and take relationship, it is completely controlled." He said although there was a "significant, core group" within Te Atiawa who remained opposed to the settlement he was unsure what would come out of today's meeting with chief treaty negotiator Rick Barker. "It may be an indicator that the Crown is not as comfortable as they would like to be, but that doesn't mean [the deal] won't go ahead," he said.

One issue in particular Skipper has relates to the conflict of interests he believes representatives of TAIA have, including chairwoman Wikitoria Keenan and negotiator Peter Moeahu.

Skipper said he did not accept Moeahu's view, published in Tuesday's Taranaki Daily News, that past concerns about potential conflicts of interests had faded.

In his letter to Minister Finlayson, Skipper said the "overlapping roles" held by the settlement team had not be managed appropriately and had potentially impacted on iwi members' ability to make an informed decision about the deal.

He also outlined concerns he and others had about comments made by some members about the settlement on TAIA's Facebook page which were subsequently deleted by the administrator.

On July 22, a statement was posted on TAIA's Facebook page which said the deal had received the support of a majority of its membership. This post has since been removed.

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Despite repeated attempts by the Daily News to contact Keenan about the voting results, she did not respond in time for today's publication.

In the case of Ngaruahine, chief negotiator Daisy Noble said the Crown notified her yesterday that its $67.5m settlement had been approved following its ratification by iwi members. The iwi is set to sign the formal deed of settlement tomorrow.

Noble said of its 3000 registered members, just under 1000 voted and 90 per cent supported the deal.

She said the official results would be posted shortly on their website, Facebook page and in the newspaper.

- Taranaki Daily News

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