Time is running out for three East Coast iwi trying to stop the government's $110 million settlement with Ngati Porou, which will extinguish their Treaty claims in the area.

The tribes' last hope is Waitangi Tribunal intervention, but the tribunal has no jurisdiction once the settlement is introduced into Parliament - which is expected next week.

Tamaki Legal, acting for Ngati Uepohatu, Ruawaipu and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, has told the tribunal the settlement favours Ngati Porou over tribes which have existed in the area since a time before the waka migration, and "consigns them to the black hole of history".

The application claims unfairness in the settlement ratification process that excluded the tribes from voting as well as voting irregularities. It also presents historical research showing the legitimacy of the claims.

The claimants argue they were unfairly disadvantaged by a coercive voting process described as "forced assimilation by the Crown", whereby they had to submit to another identity to vote. "The ballot required you to be registered on the Ngati Porou roll of beneficiaries and if you weren't because you didn't identify Ngati Porou as your tribe, then you couldn't vote," says Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti claimant Barney Tupara.

Office of Treaty Settlements director Paul James says in an earlier urgent application in 2009, the tribunal found that while there had been some flaws in the mandate process, they were not sufficiently serious to constitute a breach of the principles of the Treaty. "The tribunal found that Te Runanga o Ngati Porou had significant support, which included members of Ruawaipu, Uepohatu and Te Aitanga a Hauiti."

Uepohatu elder Sue Nikora says the Government is siding with Ngati Porou just as it did during the 1864 East Coast Wars. "Our ancestors were murdered by these people - by the militia and the kupapa faction - so it's no wonder we are angry."

She says Ngati Porou are not the traditional owners of the land and the settlement includes land which rightfully belongs to Uepohatu.

"We are the people of the land; we are tangata whenua," says Ms Nikora. "The Ngati Porou runanga has been concocted by the Crown."

Historical research by Crown historian Donald Loveridge concedes "the papatipu of Ruawaipu and Uepohatu" and that certain areas were principally awarded by the Land Court in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to individuals claiming descent from those tribes.

"It could well be argued that this constitutes evidence that a distinct and coherent descent group existed in each case," said Dr Loveridge.

Mr James says the reports did not affect the mandate.

"While they demonstrate that Ruawaipu and Uepohatu were important tipuna in the history of Ngati Porou hapu, they do not provide sufficient historical evidence to demonstrate the groups' distinctiveness from Ngati Porou."

Ruawaipu claimant Tamati Reid disagrees. "There are quite a few of us who are opposed to the mandate of the Te Runanga o Ngati Porou because we are not Ngati Porou."

He says the Crown is settling with the wrong people.

Office of Treaty Settlements' response to Herald questions
When do you expect the Deed of Settlement to be introduced into Parliament?

The legislation giving effect to the Deed of Settlement is planned to be introduced into Parliament next week.

The current application raises concerns about ratification - that the other claimant tribes were excluded from the voting process unless they registered as Ngäti Porou - which would seem undemocratic. The matter does not appear to have been addressed in the previous urgent application. What is OTS's view of this issue?

All those included in TRONP's mandate have had the opportunity to have their say in the ratification process for the Deed of Settlement and post-settlement governance entity. This includes the applicants. They were advised that participation in the ratification process was very important and if they chose to oppose the settlement they needed to register and record their opposition in the vote.

The Ngati Porou mandate held by Te Runanga o Ngati Porou (TRONP) includes the Ruawaipu, Uepohatu and Te Aitanga a Hauiti groups.

The previous urgent application (the East Coast Settlement Inquiry [Wai 2190]), inquired fully into the Crown's recognition of the mandate held by TRONP, and concluded that TRONP was properly mandated to negotiate a settlement of all historical claims on the East Coast, including those of the applicants.

The Tribunal said that while there had been some flaws in the mandate process, these flaws were not sufficiently serious to constitute a breach of the principles of the Treaty.

The Tribunal found that TRONP had significant support, which included members of Ruawaipu, Uepohatu and Te Aitanga a Hauiti. Although the applicants purported to represent those groups, the Tribunal was not convinced that the claimants commanded significant support compared with the support demonstrated by TRONP.

Since the previous application there has been further assessment by the Crown historian Dr Loveridge of the historical research undertaken by Professor Belgrave and Dr Young and Mr Walzl which seems to agree there is evidence of "a distinct and coherent descent group" for Ruawaipu and Uepohatu thereby providing some historical support for two of the claimants. This matter also appears not to have been addressed in the previous application. What is OTS's view of this given that these claims would be extinguished by Ngati Porou's Settlement passing into law?

The recommendation to review the traditional history reports was made in the context of the previous application (the Wai 2190 application).
The Crown contracted an independent professional historian (Dr Don Loveridge) to carry out a review of the reports from a historical perspective.

Dr Loveridge came to two main conclusions based on his analysis of the reports and his professional experience:

He found both reports had succeeded in demonstrating that certain areas of land were awarded by the Native Land Court in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to individuals who claimed descent from the t?puna Ruawaipu and Uepohatu;
However, he did not consider that the two reports presented a compelling case for descendants of Ruawaipu or Uepohatu having a separate identity and historical experience from Ngati Porou.

Officials reviewed the traditional history reports to see whether they affected the Crown's decision to recognise the mandate of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou, given the opposition of the Ruawaipu and Uepohatu groups. They found that the reports did not affect the mandate of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou, or the Crown's decision to recognise the mandate. While they demonstrate that Ruawaipu and Uepohatu were important t?puna in the history of Ngati Porou hapu, they do not provide sufficient historical evidence to demonstrate the groups' distinctiveness from Ngati Porou. They do not address whether Ruawaipu or Uepohatu are, or should be, covered by the mandate of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou. They do not provide evidence that the groups are "large natural groups" for the purposes of the Crown's negotiation policy.

Concerns are also raised that recommendations of the Tribunal in the East Coast Settlement Report have not been implemented - ie the two week hearing before the Crown to air historical claims and opportunities for the claimants to participate in the negotiation process. Does OTS intend to implement any of these recommendations and if so when?

Yes it does. OTS has fully considered the recommendations of the Tribunal, both in terms of the Ngati Porou settlement process, and in the Treaty settlement context as a whole.

The Crown and TRONP have always been clear that the airing of grievances process would be held after deed signing and before legislation is enacted.

Therefore the two-week airing of grievances process is yet to occur, and hui will be held later this year. This process will give claimants the opportunity to address the Crown about the harm done to them by the Crown's breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Feedback on the process for the hui will be sought from claimants.

Claimants had the opportunity to take part in negotiations via the Ngati Porou cluster hui, which fed into the negotiating sub-committee, Te Haeata.

The Tribunal referred to opportunities to participate through the settlement and the post-settlement governance entity. The Crown has monitored this through mandate maintenance reports.

OTS recognises the need to engage with claimants. For example in July 2010, OTS sent a letter to the East Coast claimants with information about the settlement package.

Although few responses were received, all were referred to Te Haeata so they could feed into the negotiations.

The Crown is implementing the Tribunal's generic recommendations about the settlement process and mandate recognition.

For example, it is currently publicising the Ngapuhi mandate strategy, rather than waiting for a Deed of Mandate to be presented.


To read the full East Coast Settlement Report, click here

To go to Te Haeata's website about Ngati Porou settlement negotiations with the Crown, click here