6 Feb 2014

Ngapuhi at odds over Treaty settlement

10:04 pm on 6 February 2014

The Ngapuhi iwi in the Far North remains split over how it will settle its Treaty claim with the Crown despite Prime Minister John Key urging members to put aside their differences.

Groups within New Zealand's largest iwi has been at loggerheads for a number of years, unable to agree on who has the mandate to start negotiations.

Prime Minister John Key.

Prime Minister John Key. Photo: RNZ

In Waitangi for celebrations on Thursday marking when New Zealand's founding document was signed, John Key offered Ngapuhi an incentive to settle, suggesting that a pre-settlement payment could be an option. The amount has not been disclosed.

Mr Key said it is time for Ngapuhi to put aside their personal differences and unite to focus on the big prize. He said the settlement deal would provide them with the opportunity to play a key role in developing Northland.

Ngapuhi chairperson Sonny Tau said the Government's offer is generous, but it won't speed up the process.

"I don't think any amount of money's gonna give us an incentive to go anywhere. We know where we want to go and we'll get there, whether the Crown offers that upfront or not. And at this point in time, we don't know what that really means what they're offering."

Mr Tau said it is important for Ngapuhi to get its grievances behind it and build an economic base for its people, and being New Zealand's biggest iwi means any settlement should be about $600 million.

A group of Ngapuhi hapu says the primary goal is to right long-term grievances and they won't be rushed into any settlement just because the Government has offered a financial incentive. Spokesperson Pita Tipene said money is a secondary to what they want.

"I think it's very important that we remember what Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) is all about. And it's about relationships and getting that relationship right as we move into the future.

"If we don't get it right and we focus on the money, our judgement will be clouded by money. So let's focus on the relationships on a very special day for us."

This group wants the Crown to negotiate with a collective of five hapu and not the iwi as one entity.

The Prime Minister says he wants a settlement this year.

Get on with it, says minister

Treaty Settlements Minister Chris Finlayson has told Ngapuhi to get on with sorting out who has the mandate to start negotiations with the Crown.

Mr Finlayson said on Thursday he is pleased to hear that Ngapuhi has at least started talking about how much they want to help alleviate past wrongs.

"I'm very keen to sit down with the mandated representatives and have the negotiation. There are a variety of factors that come into it - raupatu (confiscation), were there other rotten deals that were done that deprived them of land, the amount of land that was lost - all of those sorts of things. So the best advice I can give Ngapuhi is get on with it."

Mr Finlayson said the Government has issued a challenge to Ngapuhi to settle and it is now up to the iwi.