Whakatōhea splits down the middle

in the news

Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi Whakatōhea is no closer to deciding who holds the mana to negotiate its $100m Treaty settlement after the Opape-based hapū Ngāi Tamahaua blocked the Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust, the iwi’s negotiating body, from holding their planned AGM at the hapū Marae.

“The hapū opposes the government-backed [Pre-Settlement Claims Trust] and have not invited them to the Marae,” said chairperson Hetaraka Biddle.

“The hapū hui has determined the Marae cannot be used by them. That decides the matter. That is our tikanga”.

The Trust, whose negotiating mandate went to an iwi-wide vote last year, made the Marae booking in advance of its AGM.

But hapū opposition – including a threat to block the road to the Marae – forced the Trust to make a last-minute move to Waiaua Marae inland from Omarumutu. Originally based at Paerata, 19th century land confiscations forced Waiaua into the Pakihi Valley.

As part of its opposition to the Pre-Settlement Claims Trust Ngāi Tamahaua is calling for a Waitangi Tribunal historical inquiry examining the confiscations and other Crown actions before the iwi resumes settlement negotiations.

“We look forward to working with the Tribunal to host a part of a Whakatōhea historical inquiry at Opape Marae under the tikanga and rangatiratanga of Ngāi Tamahaua,” said Tracy Hillier, a claimant in Wai 1781.

“Only after a full historical inquiry is complete - with all the facts finally on the table - can we begin negotiating with the Crown on settling their raupatu (invasion) crimes”.

Negotiations remain on hold after an iwi-wide vote testing the Pre-Settlement Claims Trust mandate returned a narrow majority in their favour. According to the Trust the Crown’s last offer was worth approximately $100m to the tribe.  

Even so, Whakatōhea remain split almost down the middle with hapū like Ngāi Tamahaua and Ngāti Ira continuing to oppose the Trust and any attempt to resume negotiations.

Although some iwi enter negotiations before or without a Tribunal historical inquiry it is generally considered cathartic, healing, and equalising to proceed with the inquiry first.  It may also strengthen the iwi’s negotiating position.

The intra-iwi split leaves Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little with three options: one, resuming negotiations, almost certainly creating a new grievance; two, running negotiations together with a Tribunal inquiry, perhaps a middle ground option; or three, placing negotiations on an indefinite hold while the Tribunal undertakes an inquiry, perhaps allowing the iwi the time it needs to settle its internals.

“Firstly, having had time to consider the vote, the outcome was finely balanced. I think the results show too much support for the Trust for the Crown to walk away, but clearly the results raise some important issues that need to be addressed before any decisions about resuming negotiations can be made,” Little said in a statement in February.

“I’ve asked officials to consider the Tribunal inquiry.  There could be an historical inquiry process parallel to, or subsequent to, negotiations. I intend to explore this possibility and other options for building support before deciding whether to resume negotiations.”

Several Whakatōhea members told māui street the first option, resuming negotiations, is unacceptable citing the Ngāpuhi vote where a 75 percent majority was set as the threshold for negotiations to begin.

But the Pre-Settlement Claims Trust’s majority was a little over 50 percent, “Brexit-level approval” according to iwi member Peter Selwyn.

Selwyn also criticised the state of the iwi rolls which were subject to a ministerial inquiry last year.

For its part the Pre-Settlement Claims Trust saw the pause in negotiations as an opportunity to positively re-engage with the iwi itself, but would still prefer to see option two adopted.

“Although there are clearly issues to work through before we resume negotiations, there is still majority support for the Trust and a desire to see our settlement progress,” said Trust chairperson Graeme Riesterer.

“The Trust recognises the view expressed by the vote that it is extremely important to have our stories and history told through a historical inquiry. As such, we asked the Minister to consider how this can be done while our settlement negotiations continue.”

“The Trust’s goal remains to see the aspirations of our tīpuna come to life”.

But despite the conciliatory approach intra-iwi antagonisms could be getting worse after the Trust made an application under the Marine and Coastal Area Act for recognition of the tribe’s customary interests in the foreshore and seabed.

But four hapū with mana moana have also made applications independent of the Trust, meaning there are now overlapping claims.

The applications perhaps set up another showdown.

Māui street will keep up to date with developments as they occur.


in the house

  • The Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill, a local bill in Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene’s name, did not pass its first reading in Parliament. The Bill would have given Ngāi Tahu the power to appoint two representatives to Environment Canterbury. Labour and the Greens voted in favour of the Bill while National, New Zealand First, and Act opposed it citing Ngāi Tahu’s commercial interests in the areas the Council regulates as a reason to oppose the iwi appointing its own, in effect, councillors. The Bill’s opponents were criticised for reducing the iwi to its commercial interests and ignoring that it is actually made up of tens of thousands of ordinary people.

  • The Māori Affairs Select Committee is continuing to hear submitters on Tirikatene’s other Māori seats bill, the Electoral (Entrenchment of Māori Seats) Amendment Bill. ActionStation, the online campaigning organisation, delivered its submission signed by 2243 people and authored by Max Harris and Eliot Pryor. The Select Committee also received and considered a petition from SOUL and Pania Newton to protect Ihumatao. The petition currently has 19,000 signatures.


in the media

  • The Grey District Council is the latest local authority to provide for some form of Māori representation. In an MoU with the local iwi signed this week the council agrees to allow an iwi representative full participation rights – minus the right to vote – in all council meetings and to include a Māori seat at the 2022 local body elections. The Grey District Council now joins the Auckland Council, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional councils, the Rotorua (Lakes) Council, Ruapehu District Council, Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Wairoa District Council, South Wairarapa District Council, Invercargill City Council and several other large and small councils with full or partial iwi or Māori participation at the council table and committees.

  • Air New Zealand is under fire for its tatoo policy that discriminates against people who carry moko. The airline proudly rips off Māori motifs like the koru but will not allow visibly Māori bodies to work on its planes.

  • There has been an encouraging increase in reo learners in Gisborne, reports the Gisborne Herald.