Parliament's Māori Affairs Select Committee will have a rare Napier sitting on Monday to hear modern grievances relating to some of the oldest claims before the Waitangi Tribunal.
The hearing stems from opposition to the Ahuriri Hapū Claims Settlement Bill being passed in its current form – expressed in some of the 42 submissions received after its first reading in Parliament on March 12.
Mandated settlement entity Mana Ahuriri Trust, which amid the disputes has stalled its Napier railway land retailing development, has filed supporting the bill.
The hearing will be held at the Napier War Memorial Centre on Monday afternoon, with the committee to report back by September 12 – a month after the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the general election scheduled for September 19.
Among the claims in the Large Natural Grouping covered by the bill is WAI55, lodged with the tribunal in 1988 and heard under urgency because of fears land which could form part of a settlement might be sold into private ownership.
In 1995 the tribunal found the once expansive waterway Te Whanganui a Orotu, from which much of Napier emerged via land reclamation starting about 1874 and during the 1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake, had been specifically excluded in the 1851 Ahuriri Purchase around which the settlement package revolves.
But 25 years after the tribunal the successful claim remains unsettled, along with several others in the package.
Objections mainly support the Bill, but oppose enactment without revision of a factual account and Crown apology relating to the Ōmarunui conflict of 1866, and without new elections of trustees of mandated settlement entity Mana Ahuriri Trust, as recommended by the Tribunal after an urgent hearing last year.
In 2010 the Crown recognised the mandating of Mana Ahuriri to negotiate the settlement as representing the seven hapū, and a deed of settlement between the Crown and the Trust was signed in December 2016.
It triggered an enactment process that was expected to have been completed within a year, but which didn't start till the bill was introduced to the House on December 12.
The advent of the Covid-19 crisis and a general election mean it's now unlikely to be settled until next year.
Some of the delays, in the case of the inner-harbour claim particularly, stem from a National Government step in 1994 to speed up settlement processes by negotiating more on a regional basis, in the shadow of the "fiscal envelope" proposals to cap settlements nationwide at $1 billion over 10 years.
It became part of the Large Natural Grouping, despite fears that smaller claims could be swallowed up by large claims in such wider regional groups, which have been described as potentially reinventing original grievances.
Written submission are available online, including that of former short-term trustee Mathew Mullany on behalf of Waiohiki-based Ngāti Pārau Hapū Trust, saying the trust supports enactment subject to implementation of recommendations from last year's tribunal Mana Ahuriri Mandate Report.
The tribunal found Ngāti Pārau had been prejudiced by Crown failure to monitor accountability and representation in relation to Mana Ahuriri Trust elections, citing failure by the trust in conflict with its constitution to hold elections in 2013, 20214 and 2015.
He said the tribunal also found the hapū had been prejudiced by a Crown decision to accept a "secret deal" with Mana Ahuriri Incorporated, enabling proceeding with settlement without input from the claimant community and to accept mandating of Mana Ahuriri Trust in a flawed process.
The Tribunal recommended elections be held for all trustee positions before the Bill is enacted, but the Mana Ahuriri Trust submission blames Ngāti Pārau members for delays, claims 2019 hearing outcome as unfair and in a "recommendation" says Mana Ahuriri Trust will not be holding elections prior to the enactment of the legislation.
It says it has provided opportunity to remedy the concerns of Ngāti Pārau claimant concerns.
In relation to concerns over the historical account relating to Ōmarunui, submitter Denis O'Reilly says his concern is the way it is currently framed "…and the absurd nature of the apology".
"The historic account has been reduced to such a simplistic record as to render it facile," he says.