An urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing has been told the Crown neglected the rights of a group of Napier treaty claim beneficiaries by not ensuring the proper management of the settlement.
The claims, which challenge the mandate of post-settlement governance entity Mana Ahuriri, representing in the Ahuriri Purchase settlement process, were made as the hearing opened on Monday in Napier's hotel East Pier conference centre.
The venue in Ahuriri is at the entrance to the Napier inner harbour which was the centre of claim WAI 55 (Te Whanganui a Orotu), which is still not settled despite tribunal decisions in favour of the claimants more than 20 years ago, and almost four years after the Crown's initialling of a Deed of Settlement with Mana Ahuriri.
Starting in 1993, the WAI 55 hearings were among the first held by the tribunal, but the claim eventually became part of a larger package related to the Crown's 1851 Ahuriri Purchase, as the Crown moved to dealing with larger natural groupings in an attempt to simplify the process.
The hearing, scheduled to last up to three days and cover the Crown's role in recognising the 2010 mandating of Mana Ahuriri and the maintenance of that mandate, is before tribunal Chief Judge Wilson Isaacs and panel members Dr Monty Soutar, Dr Grant Phillipson and Prudence Kapua.
Ngati Parau, one of three hapu in modern claim WAI 2573, is represented by counsel Matanuku Mahuika. Crown counsel is Geoff Melvin and Mana Ahuriri (MAI) is represented by counsel Leo Watson.
Mahuika said in his opening that Crown officials looking at the vote in the mandate ratification process should have realised it was "not safe" and decided to "do it again" and it failed to act when alerted to MAI failures to hold elections and annual meetings and file financial statements.
"The Crown failed to act and was prepared to push on, he said, adding its view was "solely driven" by the desire to complete a settlement.
As a result, the rights of a sector of beneficiaries stood to be prejudiced, when the Crown had an obligation to endure the process was carried out properly, he said.
Outlining the complaints, first witness Matthew Mullany, of Ngati Parau, said he did not receive voting papers and was therefore unable to vote on the Mana Ahuriri Deed of Mandate, which would enable the organisation to represent all claimants in the settlement process.
He found "by accident" that his address had been wrongly recorded, and still did not receive the papers after it was corrected.
"I was aware of others," he said.
"I lodged a complaint with the Crown in writing. Nothing was done about it. We have consistently sought to raise our concerns with the Crown, but the Crown has failed to address them."
The tribunal proceeds.