27 Oct 2017

Treaty Minister prepares to tackle stand-off

8:34 pm on 27 October 2017

Minister for Treaty Negotiations Andrew Little is open to all proposals on how the Ngāpuhi claims might be settled, he says.

Andrew Little stands down as Labour Party Leader

Andrew Little. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The former Labour leader, lawyer and union boss was sworn in as Minister for Treaty Negotiations yesterday, and today said he was open-minded about how a settlement - or settlements - might be achieved.

Mr Little was under no illusion that what he signed up for was going to be simple, but said he put his hand up for the job because he had a deep interest in Treaty settlements and had followed the grievances of the northern iwi closely.

"As a new Minister for Treaty Negotiations coming into the role I wanted to take time to understand and talk and establish relationships before I start thinking that I've got any right to start telling people what solutions might look like," he said.

Hapū alliance Te Kotahitanga's co-chair Rudy Taylor is also a senior member of Labour's Māori council and no stranger to Mr Little.

Rudy and Kay Taylor at Tuhirangi Marae.

Rudy and Kay Taylor at Tuhirangi Marae. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The hapū believe the changing of the guard at the Beehive will end what they see as stubborn government support of the Ngāpuhi mandated authority Tūhoronuku.

"When he became the leader of the party I gave him Anne Salmond's report that Ngāpuhi never ceded sovereignty, and he read through that whole report and he acknowledged us.

"So, at the end of the day, I'm ready to sit down with him."

Pita Tipene

Pita Tipene Photo: Supplied

Te Kotahitanga's other co-chair Pita Tipene predicted last week that without the support of National, Tūhoronuku was 'toast'.

"I don't think anyone will be fooling Andrew Little about what's going on, I think he'll be well informed - certainly all the paperwork is there - and we will get a durable settlement for Ngāpuhi with Andrew Little and the coalition government that's in place."

National accepted Tūhoronuku had the right to represent Ngāpuhi in Treaty negotiations, only to be told by the Waitangi Tribunal it had recognised the mandate of an empty structure.

For months, Te Kotahitanga, Tūhoronuku and Crown officials worked on a plan to fix the mandate, and fairly represent hapū, but Tūhoronuku leaders Hone Sadler and Sonny Tau would not agree to it and then-Prime Minister Bill English called time out on the project a month before the New Zealand election.

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 Sadler said he he was looking forward to meeting Mr Little, but challenges lay ahead.

"There will be a new perspective brought to bear and I'm hoping that after all this time the incoming minister will take the bull by the horns and address the issue with the mandated body, and that's Tūhoronuku."

Mr Sadler said the Crown became too involved in fixing the mandate, and the resulting plan went beyond what the Tribunal had wanted.

He said the bottom lines for Tūhoronuku were dedicated seats - for urban Ngāpuhi, the rūnanga, kuia and kaumātua - and a single settlement for the whole iwi.

Te Kotahitanga hapū said that was just the old guard trying to cling to power. They are looking at multiple settlements based on the same six hapū clusters they formed to take their claims to the Tribunal.

Mr Little said he was open to that idea but would listen to all points of view.

"At the moment, we've got the conflict - if you like - between Tūhoronuku and Te Kotahitanga ... and it's a question of whether or not there's enough will amongst all the various hapū to settle it and to commence negotiations."

Mr Little said he would be briefed by his officials next week and hoped to get up north very soon to meet Ngāpuhi face to face.

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