Runanga eyes post settlement entity

By Mike Barrington

Te Runanga-a-iwi o Ngapuhi could become the governance entity handling the tribe's $170 million-plus Treaty settlement with current chairman Sonny Tau in office long into the future.

Changes were made to the trust deed at the runanga's annual meeting in Kaikohe last Saturday during which a woman questioning the annual report was threatened with a punch in the face.

Mr Tau told the woman to continue talking and a man frustrated by the failure to address the threat made by another woman at the hui threw a plastic chair toward the chairman.

Others at the meeting, attending by about 85 people, began scuffling with the man and the violence moved outside the wharehui at the Kohewhata Marae.

Police were called while the annual meeting continued inside.

Kaikohe police Senior Sergeant Arthur McLean yesterday said on Thursday that officers had attended a "domestic incident" at the marae last Saturday. No arrests were made.

Runanga chief executive at the meeting, George Riley reported growth of $6.1 million in iwi assets in the year to June.

The Ngapuhi Asset Holding Company and Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services recorded an operating profit of $588,000.

But when a property and equipment revaluation and funding of the runanga's Treaty settlement committee Te Ropu o Tuhoronuku were taken into consideration there was an operating loss of $1.3 million.

Almost $3 million had been invested in Tuhoronuku since it was set up in 2008, Mr Riley said.

Holding company chairman Sir John Goulter is understood to have told the hui that if the Treaty settlement didn't take place within the next couple of years the runanga would be at financial risk.

The annual report shows Mr Tau received payments totalling $148,652 for the year to June - $75,000 as runanga chairman, $48,625 for leading Tuhoronuku and $25,000 as a holding company director.

Because a Tuhoronuku mandate poll achieved only 5210 votes of support from more than 120,000 Ngapuhi, the Government has been promoting unity between the runanga committee - which seeks direct settlement negotiations with the Crown - and Te Kotahitanga, a hapu group which wants the Waitangi Tribunal to proceed with stage two of its Te Paparahi o Te Raki inquiry into Treaty claims north of Auckland.

Despite Crown doubts about the validity of the poll, Mr Tau said Tuhoronuku was now seen as the "gold standard" for mandate processes by the Treaty sector.

Describing the mandate as "overwhelming" in his chairman's report, he said the Government was placing the runanga at financial risk by attempting to gain greater buy-in from "small groups of resisters".

Amendments to the trust deed included lifting a three-term restriction on the election of a chairperson, which would enable Mr Tau - now in his third term - to seek further three-year terms in office.

He said the amendments - some forced by legislation, some cosmetic - were absolutely necessary and were for the benefit of all Ngapuhi as the tribe searched for a reputable post-settlement governance entity while approaching its Treaty settlement.

- Northern Advocate

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