Council of elders hopes to smooth tribal disputes

2:41 pm on 11 August 2015

The country's largest iwi, Ngāpuhi has a new council of elders which it hopes will become the go-to group for tribal issues.

The group of about 50 kaumatua wants to sit alongside and offer advice to powerful Ngāpuhi organisations such as Tuhoronuku, Te Runanga ā Iwi o Ngapuhi and Te Kotahitanga.

Hapu took to the streets of Whangarei in protest over the mandate.

Ngāpuhi's new council of elders hopes it will become the go-to group to help solve tribal problems. Photo: RNZ

The tribe has recently begun Treaty settlement negotiations with the Crown.

Spokesperson for the Council of Elders, Kingi Taurua said too often kaumatua are left out of important decisions.

He wants the council, which is yet to be named, acknowledged by the Government as the go-to group for tribal issues.

The Ngapuhi council of elders is just days old but, according to its spokesperson Kingi Taurua, has centuries of knowledge.

"They are the owners of the land these old people, its been passed down from generation to generation and therefore we should have some kind of right to be able to give advice or at least to have some kind of input."

But MP for Te Taitokerau Kelvin Davis said Ngapuhi was grappling with serious issues and a council of elders was not what the iwi needed most.

Caucus run 21/07/15

Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Tuhoronuku is the mandated Treaty authority and has been at odds with other powerful groups like - Te Kotahitanga and Te Runanga A iwi o Ngapuhi where Sonny Tau is chairman.

Mr Taurua said it was here where the kaumatua had an important role, to be a peacemaker.

Mr Taurua uses the kereru issue where former Tuhoronuku chair Sonny Tau was charged with being in possession of a native bird.

The Runanga a iwi o Ngapuhi sent a delegation to Invercargill to apologise, Mr Taurua said the matter should have been left to the elders to reconcile.

Ngapuhi is country's largest iwi with more than 125,000 beneficiaries.

The Te Taitokerau electorate profile shows 5 percent of those registered are 65 years and over.

The new council of elders has around 50 members and is expected to grow. Mr Taurua said it would be the decision maker for various issues.

He said there too many huis and too few "doeys"

Mr Davis said there was a place for the elders of Ngapuhi, but it should be outside of politics.

"I think what we need from our kaumatua is leadership on our marae, and in our tikanga, our culture, I think that's where we really appreciate what kaumatua have to offer."

He said getting involved in tribal disputes could cloud things even further

Tuhoronuku is in an election process and has chosen not to comment on the new council.

On Friday Tuhoronuku will vote for a new chairperson to replace Sonny Tau who stood down last month.