Centuries-old relationships between Tauranga and Hauraki iwi are to be reaffirmed in a ceremony to defuse tensions that led to protests erupting around the Western Bay this year.
Tauranga Moana iwi Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Ranginui will sign a covenant with major Hauraki iwi Ngati Paoa at Maungatapu Marae today.
''We need to recover our value systems and relationships,'' Ngai Te Rangi iwi chairman Charlie Tawhiao said.
Hundreds of Maori took part in high-profile protests this year to stop the Government signing a deal that gave Hauraki iwi rights over Tauranga Harbour. It included a flotilla of boats twice blocking the entrance to Tauranga Harbour in June and protest marches along State Highway 2 at Te Puna and Katikati in July.
Protests halted when the former Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said he would not sign the settlement with Hauraki's Treaty settlement collective until all the issues had been worked out. Ngati Paoa Iwi was a member of the Hauraki collective.
Tawhiao told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend that iwi needed to start dealing with some of the tensions that had arisen through the Treaty settlement process.
''Our relationships with neighbouring iwi are very old and in danger of getting lost through Treaty settlements and people talking through lawyers.''
He said today's signing would reconfirm the nature of their relationship and the need to treat each in the right way and true way. ''This has been put at severe risk by the Treaty settlements.''
Tawhiao said they were trying to return to a relationship based on conversation rather than an adversarial court-based system.
He said it was exciting to be returning to traditional processes and value systems to resolve things, other than through the Treaty policies of governments or lawyers.
''Court proceedings are destructive to relationships because there are winners and losers.''
Tawhiao said collectives were a creature of the Treaty process and the Crown's preference to deal with large groupings.
Although there were a lot of benefits from the settlements, he said there were also unforeseen problems that only manifested themselves after the euphoria of the settlements had died down.
''People are worried about what they may lose by getting caught up in the hype of treatment settlements.''
More and more iwi were starting to consider the costs on their rangatiratanga. Was it worth giving away identity and rights, even although the Treaty settlements opened up good opportunities, he said.
Tauranga Moana's Ngati Pukenga Iwi supported the covenant but was unable to sign because its rangatira (chief) was in hospital, Tawhiao said.
The signing has been welcomed by Ngati Paoa Trust chairman Gary Thompson who said it would reaffirm their histories and solidify their relationship.
Thompson said Ngati Paoa had been forced into a Treaty settlement process where the iwi put its best foot forward regarding what they thought the claims meant to their people.
''There had never been an opportunity to sit down and talk things through with our relatives,'' he said referring to Tauranga Moana iwi.''
Thompson said they had operated collectively for hundreds of years, with a clear understanding of the areas where each group had leadership.
Ngati Paoa Iwi
- Three marae at Kaiaua, Tahuna and near Miranda
- Population 3500
- People live mainly in South Auckland
- Tribal area western Hauraki Plains to Auckland and Hauraki Gulf