Withdraw now and wait until 2020, OTS warns Ngāpuhi hapū

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The Office of Treaty Settlements is warning Ngāpuhi hapū that if they withdraw from the tribe’s mandating process they may have to wait until at least 2020 to re-engage in the Treaty settlement process with the Crown.

The letter, in OTS director Lil Anderson’s name, comes after attendees at the consultation hui asked for formal clarification of what, if any, consequences would follow from withdrawing from the mandating process.

“If a hapū withdraws from the Ngāpuhi mandate they would no longer be part of negotiations with the Crown,” the letter reads.

“If the withdrawn hapū wishes to enter separate negotiations or negotiations with other hapū who have withdrawn they would need to discuss this with the Crown. They may need to work with these others and the Crown to determine the scope of a Large Natural Group (LNG).”

Ngāpuhi count over 125,000 members – almost double the size of the runner-up, Ngāti Porou – and that size is proving a problem with Ngāpuhi members pointing at the consultation hui and online that their tribe is a confederation of different iwi (e.g. Ngāti Hine) rather than a single iwi. Ngāpuhi iwi like Ngāti Hine then contain a number of different hapū, each with their own particular perspectives and claims.

“The Minister has been badly advised. His program is prescriptive and top down,” said Pierre Lyndon, the Ngāpuhi reo expert and well-known Te News writer, criticising the Crown’s LNG policy.

Under the policy the Crown engages with claimants forming a LNG. There is no formal formula or threshold for establishing a LNG, instead it is a matter of judgement and discretion. But in general terms a LNG corresponds with an iwi.

“There is only one kaupapa on the table and it is the kaupapa of The Office of Treaty Settlements and Ngāpuhi Rūnanga,” said Lyndon.  

The Ngāpuhi Rūnanga is closely tied to Tūhoronuku, one of the competing settlement bodies, with both sharing the same chairperson in Sonny Tau.

In June approximately 30 iwi members marched on the Rūnanga protesting the way the leadership treats Mangakahia, a northern hapū. Sharon Kaipo and Moana Tuwhare were invited in to speak and the pair warned that marches will arrive at every six weekly Rūnanga meeting.

The discord comes as Ngāti Manu and now Ngāti Kuta Patukeha pull out of the Ngāpuhi mandate.

“We reject any proposition or suggestion that Tūhoronuku, Te Kōtahitanga or Te Rūnanga ō Ngāpuhi has our mandate to negotiate, represent or speak on our behalf with the Crown,” said hapū spokesperson Shirley Hakaraia.

“We also reject the proposition that there be a central negotiation body for any matter involving our claims. They are our grievances, our claims and Ngāti Kuta Patukeha demand to engage in negotiations directly to seek reparation from the Crown”.

“We support the position of our whanaunga Ngāti Manu. Hapū rangatiratanga has been our position from the beginning. Ngāti Kuta Patukeha have never ceded our rangatiratanga”.

But OTS warns that hapū who withdraw could face a long wait before the Crown can deal with their separate claims.

“At the present time the Crown’s negotiations work programme is full until at least 2020… if a mandate for the withdrawn hapū is achieved that does not necessarily mean the Crown would be able to commence negotiations immediately.”

The two withdrawn hapū considered that their actions could mean walking to the back of the line, but stuck to their principles nonetheless.

Lyndon warns this could be the beginning of a “domino effect” as other hapū begin to feel secure enough to reject the Crown’s process.

Such a domino effect would be a blow to Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little who has engaged in dozens of consultation hui in New Zealand and overseas. The Minister is also proposing a creative compromise where the Crown negotiates with (in my words) a Very Large Natural Group over the quantum (i.e. negotiating the cash settlement with one settlement body) and then negotiates with different iwi over other forms of commercial and cultural redress.

The compromise remains attractive to some iwi with a Ngāti Hine attendee at the consultation hui at Tau Henare Marae writing that, even though there was some disagreement over details, “the people gathered at the marae were very pleased and satisfied that the Minister had fronted up and that the key messages had been delivered”.

Ngāpuhi Rūnanga members will vote on a final proposal in December. The threshold for progressing to settlement negotiations is a relatively low threshold of 75 per cent member support and 65 per cent support of hapū.

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