19 Feb 2015

Ex-wananga head wants court battle

7:52 am on 19 February 2015

The controversial former head of Te Wananga o Aotearoa is trying to take over his iwi's Treaty of Waitangi claim and push it into a High Court battle.

Rongo Wetere

Rongo Wetere Photo: SUPPLIED

Rongo Wetere resigned from the wananga and moved to Canada after an Auditor General's report in 2005 found he had given contracts to his family.

His iwi, Ngati Maniapoto, has just finished its Waitangi Tribunal hearings.

An email leaked to Radio New Zealand News shows a hui has been called for this Sunday where Dr Wetere will put his case to take over negotiations, and to move the case to the High Court.

In the 16 February email to almost 50 people in the iwi, Dr Wetere's son William Wetere said:

"The Waikato settlement represented 1.4 percent of what Treasury agreed was the value of their loss ($12bn, 1994). Ngai Tahu similarly settled for 1 percent - 1.4 percent depending on whose "value of loss" you agreed with (Treasury value $13bn). The Maniapoto value of loss will be in the $10's of billions. Do we have to accept an equally minimised offer? We believe that's unfair and given the Crown ignores Waitangi Tribunal recommendations, that the High Court is where we should commence settlement negotiations."

An attachment to the email calls for a consultation hui on Sunday at the Aotearoa Institute's offices in Te Awamutu.

It said Dr Wetere would be the keynote speaker and there would be a vote on using High Court action to prosecute to achieve a "quantum settlement for treaty breaches".

The panui (agenda) also details five resolutions which will be tabled. One of them is that Dr Wetere be made principal negotiator and another is that a trust Dr Wetere created - the Aotearoa Institute trust - would assist with the prosecution in the High Court.

A spokesperson for Dr Wetere said they wanted to keep the discussions internal at this point and that Dr Wetere did not want to hold formal interviews "at this early stage".

During his time at Te Wananga o Aotearoa thousands of Maori and Pakeha received an education but it was widely thought that the institution grew too quickly.

The 2005 Auditor-General's report found while Dr Wetere was head of the wananga there were poor decision-making practices for significant expenditure, inadequate identification and management of conflicts of interest and problems with travel and credit card expenses.

It criticised the relationship between the wananga and the Aotearoa Institute trust, saying "many business transactions between them showed poor decision-making practices and pervasive conflicts of interest."

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