As a Pakeha living in Northland, I'm a bystander to the Treaty negotiations between Ngāpuhi and the Crown.

I've some grasp of the issues and the historical forces, but I'm sure many of the complexities involved go way beyond my knowledge. And what a Treaty settlement would mean to many Ngāpuhi I can only guess.

But if there's one thing I can say, particularly to non-Māori living in Northland, is to grant the settlement process the time and resources it needs.

Read more: Vaughan Gunson: It's up to all earth-bound citizens to save the planet, not just billionaires
Vaughan Gunson: Re-establishing housing as a human right is legacy worth pursuing


The previous Government's deadline of 2020 for "full and final" settlements should be quietly abandoned.

The idea that the process of colonisation can be wound up, the slate cleared and justice served, is not helpful or realistic.

The conclusion of financial settlements doesn't mean the impact of colonisation on Māori is over and it's a matter of now "getting on with business".

It's worth pointing out that Treaty settlements thus far, while in the hundreds of millions, only amount to 3 per cent of the estimated wealth lost to Māori through land confiscations.

There's been a lot of goodwill on the part of Māori to accept only a small fraction of what in truth is owed. The least the rest of us can do is extend our goodwill to an ongoing process that doesn't stop at some arbitrary date.

The second thing we might consider is learning more about the shared history of this country. I can recommend Hōne Sadler's book Ko Tautoro Te Pito o Tōku A: A Ngāpuhi Narrative as a good place to start for Northlanders.

There's no requirement to agree with everything Sadler writes, but the facts, the oral histories recorded, are a path to increased knowledge. It does no harm to know.

Sadler himself is one of the drivers in the Ngāpuhi settlement process, being the chairman of Tūhoronuku.

The mandate of this group to negotiate with the Crown is, however, being contested by another group called Te Kotahitanga o ngā hapū o Ngāpuhi, who are staunchly arguing that Ngāpuhi never ceded sovereignty to the Crown.

Kotahitanga is arguing for greater recognition of sovereignty at the level of hapu (a subtribe within an iwi), which would potentially give more authority and control over any settlement to individual marae and their local communities.

This might address a concern that exists within all Māoridom, that the Treaty settlements have tended to benefit a Māori business elite at the expense of the broader iwi membership. Many Ngāpuhi would like to see a more equitable distribution of authority, land and money.

The debate within Ngāpuhi is one we can all relate to. How do we achieve equitable access to wealth and opportunity for all? How much authority do we surrender to centralised structures and hierarchies? And what does sovereignty for anyone mean in a global economy?

Whatever agreements are finally reached within Ngāpuhi, allowing them to move forward, they're dealing with issues the rest of us are also grappling with.

Give them time and goodwill, and they might come up with answers worth listening to.