4 Dec 2019

Ngāpuhi given opportunity to propose new Treaty negotiation framework

10:17 am on 4 December 2019

The government has announced it no longer recognises the mandate of Tūhoronuku to negotiate the Ngāpuhi treaty settlement, and has opened the door for hapū to propose a new negotiation framework.

Andrew Little

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little is seeking proposals from takiwā (area groups) about how more localised claims can be dealt with. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

It's back to the drawing board for the country's biggest iwi, which has not been able to reach a settlement with the Crown for a decade.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little said he was now seeking proposals from takiwā (area groups) within the tribe about how more localised claims can be dealt with.

Last year, he held 42 hui with representatives from the iwi's 110 hapū to establish a new representation model, but that evolved mandate model was supported by a slim majority of individual voters, and was rejected by 70 hapū.

Ngāpuhi's negotiations were then put on hold while the government figured out a way to move forward.

The government has announced it is looking at a more hapū and localised approach. It is seeking proposals from takiwā groups within Ngāpuhi about how takiwā-specific claims for cultural redress should be negotiated.

"As well as providing for negotiations at a more localised level I am also clear that the only sensible way to deal with issues that are common to all hapu is for those issues to be discussed together," Mr Little said.

Tūhoronuku has had a winding road since its mandate was recognised by the Crown in 2014. Mr Little has previously said he did not understand why the last government ever accepted the mandate.

There were ongoing objections from hapū who said the people appointed to Tūhoronuku did not represent them. Subsequently, in 2015, the Waitangi Tribunal found the mandate was flawed, and the Crown - which spent $6m on the process - had recognised an empty structure.

Over the next six months the Crown will work closely with Ngāpuhi groups to establish a new process for building new and sustainable mandates for Ngāpuhi negotiations.

Previously, the Crown has recognised the mandate of Tūhoronuku Independent Mandate Authority (TIMA) to negotiate on behalf of Ngāpuhi.

"TIMA has made an immense contribution in energising Ngāpuhi about the need to move towards resolution of their claims, and encouraging hapū, whānau and individuals to engage in and debate the search for a collective solution. These have often been hard conversations, but they are necessary ones," Mr Little said.

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the Crown cannot grant a mandate, or discontinue it.

"The Crown can only recognise a mandate where and if it has been granted by iwi members. A mandate is not static. The mandate that TIMA previously held no longer provides for the kind of opportunities that Ngāpuhi have told us they are seeking."

With this background, Ngāpuhi now have the opportunity to rebuild a new model to represent the iwi and its takiwā and move into negotiations.

"It has also become apparent that area-specific cultural redress is a bottom line for almost everyone involved. As a result, we are inviting proposals from takiwā (area) groups on how cultural redress can be negotiated for each takiwā, within a collective model," Mr Little said.

Mr Little said the government was also considering establishing a new Ngāpuhi sovereign investment fund. The idea of the fund, a detailed proposal for which has yet to be developed, would be to help provide assets which could be used in any agreement for redress with Ngāpuhi.

"Today's announcements give Ngāpuhi a fresh opportunity to build a cohesive mandate to negotiate redress for their claims, to push forward with area-specific cultural redress for their takiwā, and to see the fruits of what agreement with the Crown could bring for their people."