Long tribal-parliament fight to go to court

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2014

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A four-year leadership battle has reared its head again after a lawsuit was filed against tribal parliament Te Kauhanganui.

Former chairwoman Tania Martin was voted out of tribal office in 2012 by marae representatives, ending a heated power struggle that had been running since 2010.

In a statement released this week, Te Kauhanganui chairwoman Maxine Moana-Tuwhangai said Martin had challenged the decision to remove her as chairwoman and as a member of the tribal parliament. Martin accepted the decision at the time but the issue festered and she lodged papers with the courts.

She sought reinstatement as a member of Te Kauhanganui and to the position of chairwoman, Moana-Tuwhangai said.

The iwi had sought legal advice to "understand the merit of the claims". No further statements would be made while court proceedings were pending.

The bitter fight erupted in 2010 when the Maori King Tuheitia sacked Martin after she drafted a report to tribal members that criticised spending by Waikato-Tainui's executive board, Te Arataura.

She challenged the king's decision in the courts and it was sent back to the parliament, which voted to keep her in.

She won again in 2011 against her adversary Tukoroirangi Morgan after a marathon 12-hour voting session but was back in front of the parliament again the following year.

In an extraordinary move, Tuheitia wrote to members of Te Kauhanganui asking members to remove Martin from office and openly backed Morgan to contest the leadership position.

A week later, in November 2012, Martin was gone and and her crusade at an end after 36 marae voted to oust her for bringing the office into disrepute.

There are 68 marae represented on Te Kauhanganui with three representatives from each marae from 33 hapu. Each marae is entitled to one vote.

Tuheitia said he took no pleasure from Martin's ejection but it was a necessary step, he said, and called for a referendum of the tribe's governance structure. A month later, Morgan was appointed as Kahui Ariki representative on Te Arataura - the executive arm of Te Kauhanganui.

MP Nanaia Mahuta and Sir Henry van der Heyden co-chaired the governance review sponsor group.

Te Kauhanganui and iwi members will vote in October on whether to adopt the new model or keep the status quo. Results will be announced in November.

elton.smallman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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