Ngāpuhi have the opportunity to create a better future for future generations by endorsing a proposed evolved mandate to negotiate breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi with the Crown, writes Jason Pou.
We are a passionate people who are unafraid of voicing our opinions and do not always agree.
Our history shows, however, that despite our differences we have often come together to meet challenges from outside in a true reflection of the whakatauki : Ka mimiti te puna i Taumārere, ka toto te puna i Hokianga (When the fountain of Taumārere is empty the fountain of Hokianga is full.)
Strong opinions have been expressed for and against the proposal now before us for the evolved mandate as we continue to debate the road that lays ahead of us.
It is my view the evolved mandate represents an opportunity to take bold steps towards redressing wrongs of the past. We have talked about the Crown's transgressions for some time. Now we can see if we can do something about it.
The proposal is not an attempt to recast or bind Ngāpuhi or our hapu into something they are not. It merely sets out a framework, developed in consultation with our people, that will allow our hapu to control negotiations with the Crown within an open process.
It enshrines the concept of hapū rangatiratanga, which is important to our people as the largest and most diverse iwi, with 150,000 Ngāpuhi living in our rohe, across the motu and overseas.
We have endeavoured to design the framework thoughtfully by enabling Ngāpuhi to express views as individuals (via the tangata vote), and through a hapū vote so that we can be sure that the proposal is truly supported.
Rightly so, the bar for change has been set high. For the proposal to be approved 75 per cent of tangata votes and 72 of 110 hapū must support it. Under way now, voting ends at midday on December 7, with hapu decisions required by December 9.
It is not the end point, it is a starting point for a better future for us all so we can move beyond the current conflict and start constructing a prosperous outcome for the generations that will follow.
Other iwi who have settled have done well, but for us, we need to think about whether the struggles that we have faced should necessarily be borne by those who will follow.
And it isn't just about the money. As much as it is about being able to better look after our people old and new, it is also about beginning to assert ourselves within our rohe in a way that our tupuna contemplated when they signed He Whakaputanga.
In this way, I don't see any discussions with the Crown as being a cession of power.
Rather, I see the initiation of engagement as preliminary steps towards taking that power back for our people, and our hapu.
After more than 10 years of negotiations the evolved mandate offers the best opportunity for us to redress these imbalances and begin on the journey towards a better future for generations to come.
Jason Pou is from Hokianga and is a technical adviser to Te Roopu Tuhono. More information on the proposal can be found on the Te Roopu Tuhono website www.terooputuhono.co.nz.
■ In October Te Ropu Tuhono — which comprises Treaty Minister Andrew Little; the leaders of Tuhoronuku, which holds the Crown recognised mandate to negotiate Ngāpuhi's Treaty claims; and the co-chairmen of Te Kotahitanga, who opposed the recognition of that mandate — made the decision to take an evolved negotiations plan out to the people for a vote.
The evolved mandate will see hapu appoint representatives to make up six rohe negotiation bodies (RNBs). Representatives from those RNBs will make up part of the Mandated Ngāpuhi Authority (MaNA) — which could also include kuia/kaumatua representatives, Ngāpuhi living outside the region, and a runanga representative.
MaNA will appoint two commercial negotiators, with support from the RNBs, for commercial redress negotiations.
Meanwhile, each RNB will appoint as many negotiators as they would like (only up to three funded) to work with the Crown on cultural redress, and with each other for an agreement on the allocation of the commercial redress.
The vote follows months of consultation hui and submissions made by hapu, and comes after the Waitangi Tribunal found in 2015 Tuhoronuku's mandate did not protect hapu sovereignty.