Editorial: Ngapuhi have to sort it out

By Craig Cooper

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The wording is careful but the intent is clear - sort it out.

This is the clear message from Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson to Ngapuhi representatives battling in the prelude to the treaty negotiation process.

The settlement could see more than $160 million returned to Ngapuhi. In one corner, the Ngapuhi runanga sits with its sub-committee Tuhorunuku and a mandate to negotiate the settlement that the minister clearly recognises.

The runanga/Tuhorunuku favours direct settlement for a lump sum. However, the minister does not recognise the make-up of Tuhorunuku. He wants it separated from the runanga. In the other corner is Te Kotahitanga, a stand-alone entity which wants Ngapuhi claims heard through the Waitangi Tribunal, before any negotiation takes place. It wants an overall Ngapuhi, not runanga, representation involved in the process. Mr Finlayson and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples have outlined a compromise that could see the two parties engage, but they also express disappointment that personality is as much a factor as "issues of substance". The parties have until December 7 to give feedback on a request from the minister to alter Tuhorunuku's deed of mandate.

The minister has given a clear message that he recognises the mandate, he is happy for it to become the legally binding document that says the Ngapuhi people give their blessing to allow negotiation of treaty grievances and financial settlement. However, he is also clear that he wants Tuhorunuku to become independent of the runanga with the equivalent of "cross-party" representation across the Ngapuhi. All parties saying "yes, it is time to move on for the betterment of our people", will ensure ongoing mana crucial to the pre- and post-settlement process. Saying no will indicate that, on a widespread basis, there is little hope in proceeding beyond the politics and personalities, and the settlement opportunity for now, is lost.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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