6 Aug 2019

Government spends $10 million on Ngāpuhi over 10 years

10:12 am on 6 August 2019

The government has spent more than $10 million of taxpayer money trying - and failing - to get Northland iwi Ngāpuhi to enter into treaty settlement negotiations since 2009.

Ngāpuhi people turned up at Waitangi for a meeting with Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little.

Ngāpuhi representatives at Waitangi for a meeting with Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little in July. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Figures obtained under the Official Information Act show its latest attempt to establish a new mandate - which was voted down by hapū in December last year - cost $1.4 million.

The total of $10,188,633 spent over a decade excludes Te Puni Kōkiri costs, Te Arawhiti permanent staff costs, and funding of staff working in the Treaty Settlement Office.

Huhana Lyndon

Huhana Lyndon. Photo: Supplied

Whāngarei hapū representative, Huhana Lyndon, is astounded by the figures.

"My initial reaction is disappointment," she said. "That money could have been spent on uplifting hapū to be able to be part of the process."

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little held 42 hui last year with representatives from the iwi's 110 hapū, to establish a new representation model.

The money spent on that process included legal fees and costs for technical advisors, venues and travel.

The evolved mandate model was supported by a slim majority of individual voters, but was rejected by 70 hapū.

Ms Lyndon said it was time the Crown allowed hapū to design their own model.

"We've had models imposed upon us and we've told the Crown, very clearly, hapū do not agree," she said.

"Those previous models have failed. Let us be self-determining, let us have the rangatiratanga to decide who we work with and how we move forward, and maybe we might get somewhere."

Andrew Little speaks to media at parliament 30 April 2019

Andrew Little. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Mr Little admitted $10m was a lot of money for very little progress, but said the Crown had an obligation to work with iwi to find a mandate, and reach an enduring settlement.

He said the evolved mandate process had at least given him a fresh outlook on how to move forward.

"It gets voted down and I respect that decision, the Crown respects that decision, it has to. And you learn from that about what might be the basis on which we can get together.

"What ever mandate there is has to be well-supported by hapū, and we're still working on how we get there."

Pita Tipene

Pita Tipene. Photo: Supplied

But Pita Tipene, a representative from Ngāti Hine, said in 10 years the Crown had not listened to the people of Ngāpuhi.

"Everybody looks North to Ngāpuhi and says it's a basket case and you can't get anything together," he said.

"But, really, all it does is point to the fact the government over the last 10 years has got it all wrong. They've tried to impose their large natural grouping policy over the hapū of Ngāpuhi. We're no closer to a settlement than we were some time ago now."

Hapū were eager to settle with the Crown, Mr Tipene said.

"This might not be believable to the public of New Zealand, but the hapū of Ngāpuhi want to settle. What they don't want is to be driven into a cattle-yard by the government and herded into a space they will ultimately resist."

Ngāpuhi claimant funding has cost the Crown $7.5m.

A large proportion of that amount was spent on Tūhoronuku - a group the Crown initially recognised as having the mandate to negotiate on behalf of Ngāpuhi in 2014.

It includes $200,000 spent on recognising the Deed of Mandate, $845,000 spent on the Terms of Negotiations, and $1.2m spent on formal negotiations to an Agreement in Principle.

The Waitangi Tribunal later found Tūhoronuku did not have the backing of hapū, and recommended that the Crown undertake a new mandate voting process.

Tūhoronuku's leader, Sonny Tau, was disappointed the evolved mandate was voted down, but still hoped something similar could be agreed on by hapū within the next year.

"My ideal way forward is for a Ngāpuhi-wide settlement as well, where things like the loss of the language and the generic things need to be settled for and on behalf of Ngāpuhi," he said.

"But I do agree that there are specifics around hapū that need settling on a hapū level."

Mr Little met with hapū last month for the first time since they rejected the evolved mandate model - to find a new way forward.

But its still unclear how much more time and money will be spent before settlement talks begin.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs