More than 200 people have marched through Kaikohe to show their opposition to a government decision to start fast-tracked Ngapuhi Treaty settlement negotiations with a group they say doesn't have hapu support.
Yesterday's hikoi was originally supposed to head to Te Kotahitanga Marae on the western outskirts of town, where Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples was due at a consultation hui on the draft Maori Language Strategy.
However, with Mr Sharples' flight fog-bound at Wellington airport, the protesters instead headed for the runanga's headquarters on Mangakahia Rd and the Far North District Council offices on Memorial Ave.
The Government announced last Friday it would start direct negotiations with Tuhoronuku, a committee set up by Te Runanga-a-iwi o Ngapuhi, to settle the grievances of New Zealand's biggest tribe. The Government is keen to settle with Ngapuhi by the end of the year.
However, groups such as Te Kotahitanga o Nga Hapu Ngapuhi say Tuhoronuku has no mandate to negotiate on the tribe's behalf.
Te Kotahitanga also wants the Crown and iwi to work through the full Waitangi Tribunal process before talking money.
The hikoi was to have been silent as a symbol of "the unheard voices of Ngapuhi". Instead the protesters sang waiata and chanted as they made their way down Broadway.
The march was peaceful with placards bearing slogans such as "Mana not money" and "Hapu say no to Crown mandate". Kawakawa man Joey Rapana wore a cloak and a wreath of leaves on his head, a traditional symbol of mourning.
He said hapu wanted the right to speak for themselves.
One of the organisers, Bridgette Henare, said the Government asked Ngapuhi to take part in a consultation process to decide who would hold the mandate for Treaty settlement negotiations. Iwi members had done so, with 63 per cent saying they opposed Tuhoronuku starting direct negotiations, but the Crown had forged ahead regardless.
If the Government thought a fast-track settlement would win Ngapuhi votes in the upcoming election it was sorely mistaken. The hikoi was only the start of a long battle, Ms Henare said.
"We no longer fight with musket and taiaha, we will fight this with pen and paper."
Mayor Carter told to listen to Maori
Far North Mayor John Carter has been accused of taking sides in a battle over who should negotiate Ngapuhi's Treaty settlement.
About 200 people marched through Kaikohe yesterday to protest the Government's decision to start fast-tracked negotiations with Tuhoronuku, a committee originally set up by the Ngapuhi runanga (tribal council).
The marchers believe the mandate to carry out the talks should not have gone to Tuhoronuku, saying 63 per cent of submissions during the mandating process were opposed.
They also want the Waitangi Tribunal to go through the full hearings process before the Crown and iwi start talking about money.
After the Government's announcement last Friday, Mr Carter put out a statement welcoming news that negotiations would start this year, saying it would be a massive boost for the Far North.
After a stop outside the runanga's headquarters the hikoi made its way to the Far North District Council offices, where Mr Carter was berated for taking sides and presuming to speak for Maori.
Te Kotahitanga o Nga Hapu Ngapuhi co-chair Rudy Taylor urged Mr Carter to listen to Maori, in particular his Maori councillor, a reference to Willow-Jean Prime.
Mr Carter explained he was pleased to see progress in Ngapuhi's Treaty settlement - but the way that settlement was reached was up to Maori.
"Whatever arrangement you come to, that's your business," he said.
He also spoke of the transformation of Ngai Tahu and Tainui, which settled 15 years ago. Ngai Tahu was now the biggest commercial entity in the South Island and had created about 600 jobs, while Tainui had assets approaching $1 billion.
"This can be Ngapuhi and Northland in a decade or so post-settlement," he said.