Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Ngapuhi still in limbo over settlement talks

A hikoi in Kaikohe in 2014 to protest against settlement talks between the Government and Tuhoronuku. PHOTO/ PETER DE GRAAF
A hikoi in Kaikohe in 2014 to protest against settlement talks between the Government and Tuhoronuku. PHOTO/ PETER DE GRAAF

Ngapuhi is yet to learn the future of its settlement talks after a Cabinet meeting to try to get Treaty settlement talks back on track amidst further ructions in the iwi.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson told Ngapuhi's negotiating body Tuhoronuku that it had until last Friday to agree to a new proposal for negotiating which included more hapu involvement or he would remove its mandate and put the settlement on hold.

He was expected to take a recommendation to Cabinet today after Tuhoronuku told him it agreed to the Maranga Mai recommendations, but with some conditions.

However after Cabinet, Prime Minister John Key said there would now be further discussion between Finlayson and the groups involved.

Key said it could not force iwi into settlement and it was disappointing Ngapuhi had not made more progress.

"To be blunt, Ngapuhi have to work out amongst themselves to a degree who speaks for them, who is negotiating on their behalf and if they'd like to come back to the table we are ready and willing to get going again."

The Government has already put $4 million into the process.

"We can't just endlessly spend money if there's no hope of resolving who is actually speaking for them. But we'll stay engaged for as long as, realistically, we hope we can get a settlement."

A spokeswoman for Finlayson said he was now considering further advice from officials and would talk to Tuhoronuku before making a public comment.

Finlayson's decision has been complicated by conditions Tuhoronuku attached to its support for the Maranga Mai report and the resignation of four board members, including Moana Tuwhare and Sam Napia who were involved in Maranga Mai negotiations for Tuhoronuku.

Tuwhare said she had resigned because the changes Tuhoronuku wanted to the Maranga Mai model would have turned it into another version of Tuhoronuku rather than giving hapu the decision-making power.

"I think they're trying to play everybody. The lack of clarity, the lack of clear decisions and information coming out of the board is just a way of keeping people confused and unsure and I don't think that is necessarily just for the Minister's benefit."

Tuwhare said Maranga Mai had managed to bring together groups that had argued over the mandate for eight years.

She said there were people in Ngapuhi with the ability to take on talks, but Tuhoronuku was dysfunctional and losing hapu support.

Tuhoronuku chair Hone Sadler had earlier said he believed the board had met Finlayson's expectations by agreeing to transition to the new negotiating model.

The Maranga Mai report had recommended a more hapu-driven model for negotiations.

It was negotiated over seven months between representatives from Tuhoronuku, the Crown, and hapu in the Te Kotahitanga group which opposed Tuhoronuku's initial mandate.

- NZ Herald

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