The Crown came under a stinging attack for allegedly fuelling tribal tensions, when East Coast Maori met at a special Waitangi Tribunal hearing Wellington today.

The Crown has been accused of ignoring the rights of other groups by granting Te Runanga o Ngati Porou the sole mandate to negotiate the entire East Coast settlement claims.

Representatives of several smaller tribes said the decision disregarded their status as separate and distinct iwi, despite sharing some of the same whakapapa.

They wanted to negotiate with the Government themselves, but time is running out as the Government was trying to reach a full and final settlement by March 2010.

Three East Coast tribes claim a settlement would extinguish their rights to have their own story told and to assert their rights to lands and resources before the tribunal, causing them irreversible prejudice and creating a whole new cycle of contemporary grievance against the Crown.

The Wai 2190 urgent inquiry is based on a question from the tribunal to the Crown as to how it is giving due recognition to the Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Ruawaipu and Ngati Uepohatu iwi in the East Coast Settlement Inquiry district, other than Ngati Porou and if not, why not.

Attempts to negotiate a better relationship between Te Aitanga a Hauiti and Te Runanga o Ngati Porou have been unsuccessful.

Te Runanga o Ngati Porou chairman Api Mahuika has said the hearing is an affront and he will not take part in it.

In a letter to Minister for Treaty settlements Christopher Finlayson, Dr Mahuika said the hearing made a mockery of the mandating process.

At start of the hearing Professor Tamati Reedy said it was humiliating that the tribes had to attend the hearing, which was insulting and denigrated their mana and that of their ancestors.

Attendees were warned to put tensions aside for the three-day proceedings.

- NZPA