A Waitangi Tribunal finding that Maori did not concede their sovereignty in the Treaty of Waitangi is validation that the Crown cannot bulldoze over hapu, Ngati Hine leader Pita Tipene says.
The tribunal last Friday upheld claims of Ngapuhi and other northern iwi that chiefs did not hand over their power and authority to the British in signing Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840.
The decision delivered at Waitangi marae comes four years after the tribunal heard the issue, and says the chiefs thought that they were signing to become equals with Pakeha, not ceding sovereignty.
The Crown leans towards negotiating Treaty settlements with a collective of iwi instead of individual iwi or hapu.
That has caused division for several iwi and hapu groups, including a collective of Ngapuhi hapu, which opposes being represented by the mandated Ngapuhi tribal organisation Tuhoronuku.
Pita Tipene said the decision strengthens the right of sub-tribes and is happy with it.
He believed the implications of the tribunal's finding suggests that Ngapuhi is a confederation of hapu, which means entities including the Crown, Tuhoronuku, Te Runanga a iwi o Ngapuhi or any other organisation can bulldoze hapu out of the way.
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has said the tribunal's decision in contemporary New Zealand means nothing because sovereignty clearly is not an issue in New Zealand today.
Meanwhile, Tainui representative Robin Whanga, who was at the Waitangi Marae in Bay of Islands to hear the Tribunal's long-awaited report, says the finding is important for the whole country and supports Ngapuhi in whatever it does.
Mr Whanga said the Kingitanga was set up because of what happened with the Treaty and a new constitution is needed because he believes the status quo was not working.