Three iwi have been left reeling and hundreds of Māori are now unsure as to if they will be heading to Wellington this week where they had been planning to witness the signing of Treaty settlements at Parliament on Friday this week.
Ngāruahine, Te Atiawa and Taranaki earnt today that the third and final readings of each Iwi's Historical Treaty Settlement Bills scheduled for this Friday (September 23), have been put in jeopardy after NZ First withdrew its support for the settlements today.
The three iwi were advised by the Office of Treaty Settlements that due to a 'technical matter' raised by NZ First, it was uncertain whether the final readings of the iwi's settlement bills alongside two other treaty bills could be heard this Friday as scheduled.
Pou Whakarae (Chair), Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust, Will Edwards said.
"We are beyond disappointed at the possibility that our third readings, which really are a formality to effect the already binding agreements between the Crown and our iwi, has been put in contention by NZ First. For Ngāruahine, Te Atiawa and Taranaki iwi there has been a great sense of anticipation with the scheduling of the final readings of our settlement bills - but now, thanks to NZ First turning this into a political football, we're left uncertain and anxious - it's like rubbing salt into the wounds."
We're absolutely astounded - we have five busloads of whānau scheduled to travel from Taranaki to Wellington on Thursday to hear the reading in Parliament - many of these people have taken time off work or are forfeiting pay - this potential delay is messing with people's livelihoods, their ability to move forward and tantamount to a political party trampling on our mana.
Taranaki Iwi Trust Chair Tokatumoana Walden said "we were shocked to receive the press release from the Office of the Clerk informing us that the final reading may not go ahead. To put three iwi in limbo, for what appears to be a political ploy as opposed to anything substantive, is unfair and mischievous."
Ngā Hapū o Ngāruahine Iwi Inc Trustee, Tihi Daisy Noble - who has been heavily involved in the claims and settlement process for Ngāruahine, says "this seems like another attempt by NZ First to stonewall legislation that is long overdue and would help give closure to our people. Last week, a late Supplementary Order Paper by NZ First raised a 'red herring', bringing the whole house to committee stage, only to then withdraw the paper. The impact of these actions are no doubt undermining the mana of the Maori Affairs Select Committee and causing frustration to not just our iwi, but the Minister of Treaty Settlements and his Office."
The three iwi will not know until Thursday whether the reading will proceed on Friday as planned