18 Jun 2014

Opposition to mandate 'unprecedented'

10:32 pm on 18 June 2014

A lawyer has told the Waitangi Tribunal that in the history of Treaty settlements there has never been such conflict over a mandate as there is now among Ngapuhi.

Twelve hapu and more than 80 claimant groups are asking the Tribunal in Waitangi to hold an urgent hearing into the Crown's acceptance of the right of Tuhoronuku - a runanga-related board - to negotiate a settlement of Ngapuhi claims.

Protesters in Whangarei.

Hapu have taken to the streets of Whangerei in protest over the mandate. Photo: RNZ

Lawyer Jason Pou, representing some of the hapu, said some disagreement over mandates was usual but the level of rejection of the mandate by Ngapuhi hapu was unheard of.

"Any vehicle established to progress the claims must be imbued with honour and integrity and must draw support from those it seeks to represent.

"The level of opposition to this process, the conflict that surrounds this process it is submitted, is unprecedented."

Mr Pou said no amount of tinkering with the mandate would achieve broad-based support among Ngapuhi, and the Crown should wipe the slate and start again, if it wished to see consensus.

Funding policy changes

Meanwhile, the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, which funds treaty negotiations, will now fund Ngapuhi groups that are in direct negotiations with the Crown as well as those taking claims through the Waitangi Tribunal.

Trust chairperson Angela Foulkes said the claims in the Far North were so vast and complex that iwi groups are using both methods to try and settle claims, but until now only one method could be funded.

She said the trust was funding the mandated negotiating authority Tuhoronuku to begin direct negotiations with the Crown . However, other groups who have claims before the Waitangi Tribunal were worried they would lose funding if Tuhoronuku also received funding

Ms Foulkes said it was hoped the new policy would act as a circuit-breaker to the tension among Ngapuhi.