1 Dec 2014

Hearing begins on Ngapuhi mandate

9:12 am on 1 December 2014

The long-running row over who should be settling the massive Ngapuhi Treaty claim comes to a head this week in Waitangi.

ngapuhi map

Photo: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

The country's biggest iwi has been in bitter dispute over the mandate question for the past four years and the Waitangi Tribunal has agreed to hold an urgent hearing on the issue.

Twelve hapu, including the major sub-tribe Ngati Hine, requested the inquiry and have since been joined by other interested parties.

The hapu said the mandate claimed by Tuhoronuku, originally a board of the Ngapuhi runanga, was unsound and should be set aside.

They said negotiations should follow the hearing of the iwi's claims, which were still being heard by the tribunal and would not be complete until 2016.

The Government is keen to settle the Ngapuhi claims as soon as possible and has spent more than $3 million supporting Tuhoronuku to seek and organise a mandate from the iwi over several years.

Lawyers for the Crown and Tuhoronuku will lead evidence at the hearing supporting the mandate.

Witnesses will include two men sent to Ngapuhi at different times by the Government to mediate the impasse: former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Waikato Tainui leader Tukoroirangi Morgan.

The tribunal has signalled it has concerns about the Government's support for the Tuhoronuku mandate to the exclusion of other options.

In a report setting out its reasons for holding an urgent hearing, it said the Government's handling of the mandate reflected poorly on the Crown and had caused serious dissent.

The tribunal also said the opposition to the mandate was significant and could not be dismissed as a vocal minority, as Tuhoronuku had claimed.

Tau asked for explanation

Tuhoronuku chair Sonny Tau last month lashed out at the tribunal, accusing it of pre-judging the outcome of the hearing.

Sonny Tau

Sonny Tau Photo: Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi

The tribunal last week asked lawyers for Tuhoronuku to explain and warned that Mr Tau's comments had come dangerously close to contempt.

Mr Tau has told Radio New Zealand his remarks were honest opinion based on the facts of the tribunal's initial report, and he stood by them.

He said he believed a majority of Ngapuhi, who live in Auckland and Australia, supported the mandate and wanted the claim settled as soon as possible.

However the hapu alliance, Te Kotahitanga o Nga Hapu Ngapuhi, said the make-up of Tuhoronuku was inherently unfair.

It said under the rules approved by the Crown, any Ngapuhi person could nominate someone to represent a hapu on the mandated authority, with or without that hapu's approval.

The alliance - which largely boycotted the election process - said that had created a mandate authority with a fair percentage of carpet-baggers, runanga-supporters and people who had had nothing to do with the actual claims.

The 390 northern claims were organised for the hearings into five natural geographical groupings. The hapu said that was the way they should be settled, by representatives of their own choosing, with a core body to settle generic or common claims.

The inquiry into the Ngapuhi mandate runs until Friday at the Copthorne Waitangi and is open to the public.

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