12 Oct 2015

Tuhoronuku on notice from Crown

9:43 am on 12 October 2015
Sign at Hokianga hapu's Waitangi Tribunal land claim hearing, Tuhirangi Marae, Waima, 16 April.

Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The Minister of Treaty Negotiations has warned the troubled body negotiating Ngapuhi's treaty settlement that it might lose its authority to talk to the Crown.

In a letter obtained under the Official Information Act the Minister Chris Finlayson told Tuhoronuku's new chairman, Hone Sadler his board must gain the support of hapu who have rejected his organisation's authority.

Unless that is done the Crown could decide not to recognise the board's authority.

That would be a major setback for the Ngapuhi settlement which would be a much needed boost for New Zealand's largest iwi.

Hapu group Te Kotahitanga has long opposed Tuhoronuku and challenged its authority in a recent Waitangi Tribunal claim. One of those representing Te Kotahitanga, Pita Tipene has welcomed the minister's letter.

Mr Tipene said overall it was a condemnation of current leadership of Tuhoronuku both at an executive level and overall operational level.

Pita Tipene.

Pita Tipene. Photo: RNZ

Mr Tipene said adequate representation for hapu would require new elections.

He said in many cases the people on Tuhoronuku did not have popular support of the people on the ground. He said the Waitangi Tribunal urgency report recommended the people on Tuhoronuku be put up for re- election.

Asked if that was what Te Kotahitanga wanted he replied: " I think that's what everyone wants, Te Kotahitanga certainly wants it."

In the letter Mr Finlayson wrote directly to the new chair, Hone Sadler reminding him he was elected by the slenderest margin.

A group of protesters - including members of rival faction Te Kotahitanga - take to the streets to oppose Tūhoronuku's appointment to carry out treaty negotiations on behalf of Ngāpuhi.

A group of protesters - including members of rival faction Te Kotahitanga - take to the streets to oppose Tūhoronuku's appointment to carry out treaty negotiations on behalf of Ngāpuhi. Photo: TE KOTAHITANGA

Mr Finlayson directed Tuhoronuku to immediately begin addressing its finances and ordered them to work with his officials at the Office of Treaty Settlements.

He was concerned with a $500,000 debt which Tuhoronuku had and added that Tuhoronuku was entrusted with Crown funds and he would not turn a blind eye to extravagance or poor planning.

He ended by placing Mr Sadler and Tuhoronuku on notice saying they should not make funding commitments which extended beyond the year's end.

MP for Te Taitokerau Kelvin Davis said he did not know what the $500,000 has been spent on but said the loan meant Tuhoronuku was not financially independent from the Runanga and it needed to be.

Tuhoronuku has set up a sub-committee led by former deputy chair, Moana Tuwhare to engage with the opposing hapu. The move has pleased Mr Tipene and he said it is what they had been asking for all along.

Last week Mr Tipene told Radio New Zealand he believed there were hapu representatives who no one knew and one who lived overseas.

He believed there would now be new elections to replace some of these people and put representatives on Tuhoronuku who had the support of hapu.

Mr Finlayson has ordered a report about the body's finances and he has sent in officials from the Office of Treaty Settlements to work with Tuhoronuku.

That report is expected to address the $500,000 loan Tuhoronuku took out with Te Runanga ā iwi o Ngāpuhi.

In a statement Te Runanga ā iwi o Ngāpuhi said it lent money to Tuhoronuku to ensure it could advance the settlement unencumbered.

A spokesperson said: "During the past year Tuhoronuku had experienced significant additional costs due to the Waitangi Tribunal urgent hearing."

Mr Davis said the biggest thing here is engagement. He recalled being at a hui earlier this year where both sides were brought together to engage.

He said at the first sign of trouble Tuhoronuku got up and walked out.

Mr Davis said everyone in Ngapuhi wants settlement, and they needed to get on and sort the issues out.

He thought the Minister's letter was strongly worded and said 'good on him'.

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