Northland Maori leaders have slammed criticism of Tainui's Tuku Morgan as he tries to unlock the gridlocked Ngapuhi Treaty settlement.
Yesterday, David Rankin, an outspoken tribal member, said Mr Morgan's appointment as Crown facilitator would not achieve unity among Ngapuhi factions.
"It causes huge cultural offence to all of Ngapuhi to have someone from another iwi, especially someone who is a Pacific Islander [Mr Morgan has Rarotongan links], telling us what to do.
"Butt out of our business and try to restore your own reputation. You don't have any role in our affairs so do not enter Northland unless it's for a holiday. When you are tired of swimming in the Waikato River, you can enjoy our beaches, but stay away from our Treaty settlements."
The Herald spoke to four northern leaders, who groaned, although some laughed, at the comments. Ngapuhi's Sonny Tau, who has had a collegial relationship with Mr Morgan, called them "bloody hardcase", but "expected of him [Mr Rankin]".
Labour MP Shane Jones said he had an "OMG" moment when he heard the insults around heritage. He said that sort of language was fine for marae where it was often a gentle joke - his own "Tarara" or Croatian heritage often came in for ribbing in that forum.
"Given Rankin's new standard there would be no one left in Ngapuhi to do the claim. I'll be in Croatia and he'll be back in the sucking bogs of Dartmoor. I never ever attack anyone because they're not full-blooded Maori."
Te Rarawa's Haami Piripi backed Mr Morgan as someone who understood intimately Tai Tokerau politics and could be considered neutral. He was working in communities "paralysed" by division, Mr Piripi said. "He was asked to come in and get things moving ... I think he's going OK on that."
Political commentator Willie Jackson, who is not from Ngapuhi, called Mr Rankin a "wanker" for the Pacific Island slur, but said Mr Rankin raised a valid tikanga point about an outsider sorting out Ngapuhi business, especially one who lost his iwi board place this year.
Mr Morgan said he couldn't comment.