Poutama says shift Taranaki border for councils

5:13 pm on 3 July 2023
Haumoana White says Taranaki's northern border should be moved to match original Māori boundaries.

Haumoana White says Taranaki's northern border should be moved to match original Māori boundaries. Photo: LDR / Craig Ashworth

Hapū on the northern edge of Taranaki want the regional border shifted south of Mt Messenger so the area becomes part of Waikato region, saying it would better align with Māori boundaries.

Ngā Hapū o Poutama claim mana whenua status between Mt Messenger and Mōkau and say the area is rightly within the Ngāti Maniapoto boundary te aukati o Wahanui.

A Poutama hui has resolved that if the official boundary does not change, New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) and Taranaki Regional Council must "honour their obligations to consult directly with Te Taumata Paepae o Poutama" on matters including the environment.

Rangatira for Poutama hapū Ngāti Wai, Haumoana White, said the councils had been reluctant to engage with Poutama "even though we have stated we as Māori landowners on the land here, or as Māori, are entitled to be represented - and we'll stand by that point."

"District and regional councils and all other authorities should take their boundaries back to the Waikaramuramu Stream that was the original rohe pōtae gazetted boundary for all of the Ngāti Maniapoto confederation, including ourselves Poutama and all its hapū."

That boundary is similar to that established as Maniapoto's "area of interest" in its 2022 Treaty of Waitangi settlement, which recently led to NPDC struggling to deal with overlapping interests in the area.

Under its settlement, Maniapoto's interests extend south to the Waipīngao Stream, so the iwi's post-settlement entity Te Nehenehenui invited the council to join three others in a relationship agreement to protect waterways across that area of interest.

But neighbouring Ngāti Tama was adamant NPDC should not join the agreement, saying Maniapoto was wrongly claiming status over 90 percent of its territory.

Maniapoto withdrew its invitation to NPDC, saying it would instead work with Ngāti Tama to resolve the issues regarding the overlapping areas of interest.

Te Nehenehenui and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Tama both strongly reject the claim to iwi status of Ngā Hapū o Poutama.

Maniapoto trustee Glenn Tootill told the council last month both iwi had worked closely together in the past - particularly to oppose recognition of Poutama as an iwi.

"The most striking example being working together to oppose applications by a certain group in the Environment Court - and I think one thing that both iwi can agree wholeheartedly on is that geographically there is no other iwi between ourselves."

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Tama chair Frances White agreed and said she was reluctant to inflame the situation.

"I would prefer we didn't comment on that in the media. I think there have been enough court cases to show that their claim to iwi status are ill-founded."

An Environment Court decision in October 2021 found Poutama were not tangata whenua in a dispute over a gas pipeline removal.

The Ngāti Maniapoto Treaty settlement found Poutama's claims were well-founded, that the Crown had "directly sought to undermine, usurp, and destabilise their tino rangatiratanga."

But it decided that on the basis of general issues regarding the wider Maniapoto claim, making no findings on "specific local allegations or issues" - and Treaty settlements do not determine iwi status.

Haumoana White said Poutama had never conceded any defeat and did not accept the court had authority to define its existence.

"It's not about whether the Crown recognises me, or the court, they don't mean jack**** as far as I'm concerned. We are who we are.

"We're still here were still living every day. We go about our chores, we celebrate, we bury our dead, we marry our people, we engage socially with our community. We not an iwi sitting apart from the community."

When NPDC councillors first discussed Maniapoto's invitation to join its relationship agreement, councillor Harry Duynhoven said the council was left as "the meat in the sandwich" in a dispute between iwi that the Crown should decide.

But Haumoana White said the issue was not about the council being caught between Māori fighting each other.

He said council's duties extended beyond Treaty settlements to specific obligations to people on blocks of land that have marae, urupā and housing development rights.

"I expect that we should be treated equally and whatever obligations are to us we should be entitled to them."

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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