Tuhoe envoys plan Scotland trip

By Yvonne Tahana

Tamati Kruger. Photo / Greg Bowker
Tamati Kruger. Photo / Greg Bowker

Treaty negotiators for Tuhoe who are pushing the Crown for "maximum autonomy" are planning a trip to Scotland as its Government considers independence.

Britain is having the conversation now despite more than 300 years of political union because the Scottish National Party won last year's election.

Independence is a central tenet of the SNP's ideology but until it came to power it had no mandate to push the issue.

Last year Tuhoe and the New Zealand Government reopened negotiations which stalled when the Prime Minister took ownership of the Te Urewera National Park off the table in 2010. It was a defining plank in negotiations, as is "mana motuhake" or autonomy.

Tuhoe's Tamati Kruger said maximum autonomy was a long-term plan spread over 40 years that would eventually lead to tribal members becoming "dual citizens" possibly paying tribal taxes.

Broadly, it would work like this: The tribe would run its own housing and building, education, health and social development programmes. Tuhoe people would eventually pay for those services themselves as Government support is phased out.

Until a settlement is inked, the tribe is working with the Government in the four identified areas. From its perspective mana motuhake can happen without a deal.

A Cabinet paper due next month will outline how each ministry will work with the iwi over the next five years.

"These departments are very clear that a final objective in 40 years is that Tuhoe is providing for themselves," Mr Kruger said. It is a unique approach to Treaty settlements, but Mr Kruger said it was looked on with derision in some quarters. "Some iwi think we're dumb-arses, because essentially, how they see us operating is that Tuhoe is going down this road where they will pay for everything. 'Why would you want to do that when the Government is there to pay?'

"Our response is 'Well, when you get somebody else to feed you ... then you're their slave, aren't you? That's just another word for slavery."

The tribe has already travelled to Canada and Australia's Uluru for self-government research purposes.

A timetable for the Scotland visit had yet to be worked out but Mr Kruger said if Britain could negotiate its way to new arrangements it might provide lessons for New Zealand.

That said, he expected emotions to run the gamut from high to outright racism from some non-Tuhoe Kiwis about the plans.

Possible effects of the Te Urewera trial on settlement chances were also worrying, he said.

Victoria University political scientist Professor Stephen Levine said the SNP would still have a hard road to go down convincing its own people to vote for independence.

The Scottish Government has to negotiate with Westminster about the wording of an independence referendum and when it would be held.

"The [SNP] do not have 100 per cent or 90 per cent or 80 or 70 or even 60 per cent support. There are a lot of people living in Scotland who are proud to be Scottish but do not support Scottish nationalism," Professor Levine said.

Tuhoe might like to look at the US as an an example where native American nations exist peaceably within a democratic federal system. Tribes across the US have regions constitutionally recognised and protected, allowing them space to make their own laws.

Any potential arrangements would need to be carefully explained. To do less would invite anxiety, Professor Levine said.

"It's not something that can be sprung on the public overnight."

The Government couldn't discount the possibility other groups might want to follow suit, he said.

Maori political commentator Maria Bargh believes Tuhoe will need a brave Government to enact the tribe's dream of mana motuhake.

Premier Richard Seddon once struck a deal with the iwi for a degree of self-government.

That went "pear- shaped" quickly but the tribe hadn't veered from its position.

"A lot of this is about individuals having the integrity and vision to pursue justice and what is right. It's just about the political will."

Stating their case

Scotland

* Ruling party the Scottish National Party plans to hold an independence referendum.
* Scotland has been a member of Great Britain since 1707, although shared a monarchy since 1603 when King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne.
* Government: Since 1999 has had a "devolved Government" which means its Parliament takes care of local matters, but also has representatives in the British Parliament.
* Defence and foreign affairs handled by Westminster.
* Population: 5.2 million.
* Capital: Edinburgh.
* 7,875,182ha.

Tuhoe-land

* Based at: Te Urewera National Park
* Size: 225,000ha
* Tribal leaders want "maximum autonomy" where the iwi would run government services such as education, health and housing.
* Tuhoe members would retain New Zealand citizenship.
* Potential capital: Ruatoki? Ruatahuna? Taneatua?
* Population: 32,670.

- NZ Herald

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