The process of settling Crown breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi was initially fraught with controversy, but has now become an accepted and at times celebrated part of our identity. Nearly 30 years since the first settlement, many Māori groups have seen spectacular commercial success, but many questions remain. Michael Neilson reports.
There's a buzz in Kaikohe, the birthplace of the country's most populous iwi, Ngāpuhi.
It's 9am on a Thursday and Anthony "Ants" Warren is preparing Te Mira (The Mill) boxing gym for its third session of the morning.
Already a few dozen young adults have passed through the doors. The next group includes half a dozen young mums, and after school a group of 30 children will arrive, which Warren says are the gym's main focus.
"I used to see loads of these kids out on the streets up to no good. Everybody calls us a tough town, but we are not really, we just need the opportunities."
Outside, the main drag of Broadway St in this "economically-depressed" town of the north is chocka.
Warren says the town has not felt this way for a while, and puts it down to recent attention from a certain Regional Economic Development Minister, Shane Jones.
"Say what you want about him, he gets things done."
It is that investment, and the potential it can unlock, that has many iwi members including Warren looking to what could be an enormous boon for the region – a Ngāpuhi Treaty settlement.
Te Rūnanga ā Iwi O Ngāpuhi chair Sonny Tau said, a couple of years back, the iwi was after a settlement in the realm of $500m. Others have put a settlement more conservatively at $200m.
Exactly how to reach that settlement though has been a decades-long question, involving hundreds of hui, two Government ministers and a Waitangi Tribunal ruling.
Mention the topic to many in the rohe of the country's largest iwi – some 140,000 members including 30,000-plus across the ditch – and you'll get a myriad of responses.
But they all have one thing in common: they are keen to get it over the line, but it needs to be done right, tika.
Strolling the streets of Kaikohe, the need for a settlement to restore a land base, social health and an economic platform for present and future generations is omnipresent.
Yet the size and complexity of Ngāpuhi means truly representing its interests and the histories of the 110 recognised hapū (some say there could be as many as 300) as well as their land and resource rights is particularly difficult, and the challenge to the Crown to ensure it is dealing with the right people, in the right way, is all the greater.
Treaty breaches, prejudice accepted by the Crown
In the Te Paparahi o Te Raki inquiry into breaches of the Treaty, the Crown conceded Ngāpuhi suffered prejudice as a result of its policies and practices in the colonial period.
Within five years of the Treaty being signed, war had broken out in response to economic stagnation, increasing Crown control over affairs of importance to Māori, the related undermining of chiefly mana, and the encroachment of European settlers.
War pitted hapū against hapū, as well as against the Crown.
The Crown conceded large-scale land alienation resulted from its confirmation of pre-1840 transactions and its own purchasing activities.
Just over one million acres of land were transferred out of Māori hands by 1865.
The Crown had also conceded further damage was caused to Ngāpuhi economic and social health by the native land laws in 1865 and "in particular the award[ing] of land to individuals and [the] enabling [of] individuals to deal with land without reference to iwi or hapū".
This made land "more susceptible to partition, fragmentation and alienation" and "undermined traditional tribal structures which were based on collective tribal and hapū custodianship of the land".
Forty years later, only about half a million acres of land remained in Māori ownership in the wider region, some areas already with insufficient land for self-maintenance.
Increasing Crown control over the foreshore, rivers, and other freshwater resources added to that loss, which continued well into the 20 Century.
Under pressure from land and resource loss, and subsequent economic, cultural and political marginalisation, many Ngāpuhi moved away from their rohe – a trend many saw as being deliberately fostered by Crown housing, employment, and Māori affairs policies.
Impacts felt today
The 2013 Census showed the Ngāpuhi population in New Zealand numbering 125,601, or 18.8 per cent of the overall resident Māori population.
They are a young population, 35.4 per cent being under the age of 15, but they are also a dispersed people.
Only 19.9 per cent of Ngāpuhi (in New Zealand) were living in Northland, while 40.3 per cent resided in Auckland. The number living overseas was unknown but believed to be in the tens of thousands, predominantly in Australia.
The median annual income for Ngāpuhi adults is $21,700, 47.5 per cent of Ngāpuhi earned $20,000 or less per annum, unemployment among Ngāpuhi aged 15 to 24 was 30.7 per cent and some 33.5 per cent of Ngāpuhi received income support as a source of income.
Only 68.3 per cent of Ngāpuhi aged 15 years and over held a formal educational qualification.
Desire to turn situation around
The dire straits of Kaikohe hit national headlines in 2017.
One night a dozen youths stole 10 boxes of beer from a Kaikohe liquor store, and the same night another group of around 20 youths were captured on CCTV attempting to break into the Mobil service station.
Kaikohe youth at the time said this was not OK, and came up with the idea of a drop-in centre.
"It was their idea," says centre manager Delwyn Rameka.
"They saw what was happening in their town and decided something needed to be done."
The centre takes in "anybody and everybody", and offers an after-school safe space full of art, sports, computers and music.
"Many come in here and you can just see it is like taking a break for them," Rameka said.
"Outside, some of them have to be adults, but in here, they can just be kids.
"And they are all talented. Good with the hands, the brains, the talking – put them together and it is magic. Once they are engaged we help set them on pathways."
For Rameka, there is nowhere better than Kaikohe.
"Like any town it has its ups of downs, just the downs here make the papers."
Over the past few years others have been working hard to realise the potential of the Far North, including social enterprises like youth-focused design and architecture studio Ākau, and Te Kotahitanga e Mahi Kaha Trust, which works to boost youth education and employment opportunities (which is also behind the youth space).
Rameka said a settlement could bring more structure to the region and opportunities.
"The town and economy has just dropped so much since I was growing up. I love the people, and the youth. We need more businesses coming into town, more opportunities."
Rameka is hesitant, like many, to get into the politics of the settlement.
She has her own views, and she too wants to see it over the line, but she doesn't want to see a rushed job and it run by the wrong people.
Lots of finger pointing, little progress
Disagreements on leadership and hapū representation continue to divide the iwi.
In the latest round two groups had formed within the tribe: Tūhoronuku, led by Sonny Tau and Hone Saddler, and Te Kotahitanga, led by Pita Tipene and Rudy Taylor.
Tūhoronuku holds the mandate for negotiating with the Crown on behalf of Ngāpuhi, while Te Kotahitanga has been fighting that mandate.
A Waitangi Tribunal report in 2015 found flaws in the Crown's mandate selection process, stating it had failed to "actively protect the rangatiratanga of Ngāpuhi hapū".
It did not recommend the Crown withdraw the mandate, but said it should address the issues identified and ensure hapū had the opportunity to determine who represented them.
Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little spent a lot of last year working on an evolved mandate with those two main parties.
However, in December, Ngāpuhi soundly rejected a revised mandate for settlement talks when more than 70 of its 100-plus hapū gave it the thumbs down.
During his time as Treaty minister, Chris Finlayson laid the blame for a lack of progress almost entirely at the feet of Ngāpuhi leadership.
While he declined an interview for this article, he told media last year the iwi lacked a "strong leader", one who could unite the tribe in the way Tamati Kruger had done for Tūhoe, or Tā Robert Mahuta for Waikato-Tainui.
Crown-led process "divisive"
Victoria University law professor and Treaty expert Dr Carwyn Jones said it was not always easy to select a leader, as the Crown-led process was divisive by nature.
"For some iwi dealing with one group is not the way they would do things, they would have each hapū involved in the decision, and take according time."
Choosing leaders also created a lot of tension in the community to get it right, as there was a lot at stake. It was also a very unequal process, in terms of resources.
Crown lawyers and ministers, staff, were experienced in negotiations. For each hapū or iwi group looking to settle Treaty breaches, it was their one shot, and there was a lot of pressure to get it right, Jones said.
The Crown process also looked to expediency, likely driven by politics and election cycles, but for Māori, who had been waiting 179 years for a true Treaty partner, time was not so much a factor. Doing it right was.
University of Canterbury Ngāi Tahu Research Centre lecturer Dr Martin Fisher said the idea other large iwi like Ngāi Tahu were able to settle without hapū division was a myth.
"Ngāi Tahu had a lot of internal opposition during their negotiations, and they had to work really hard to get their mandate together. They did not succeed because of the process, they succeeded in spite of it."
He said due to the iwi size, any Ngāpuhi settlement would have to be divided in some way.
Hapū calling for more recognition
In the Waitangi Tribunal's Ngāpuhi Mandate Inquiry, claimants said hapū rangatiratanga was a very important dynamic of the iwi, captured in the traditional pepeha "Ngāpuhi kōwhao rau" (Ngāpuhi of a hundred holes).
It was explained by the late Erima Henare, kaumātua of Ngāti Hine, that decision-making was always at a hapū level, and this continued to be the case if tikanga was followed.
Kaikohe lawyer Moana Tuwhare, of Ngāpuhi and hapū Te Pōpoto, Te Uri o Hua, Ngāti Tautahi and Ngāti Korokoro, said these issues over hapū sovereignty were at the heart of the matter.
"There are a lot of personalities and egos that get in the way but the fundamental issue is the structure and process, and the way it does not recognise the independence and autonomy of hapū in a meaningful way – that is the biggest tension."
Many in the iwi were wary of having any settlement in the hands of one body. Following the 1992 Fisheries Settlement people were not seeing that trickle down to the hapū, Tuwhare said.
Going forward the Crown needed each hapū to be recognised as autonomous, and from there it would be up to them if they took a regional or multi-hapū approach, Tuwhare said.
"The Crown needs to recognise its process of one mandated negotiating partner does not suit us.
"It is really just flipping that starting point, rather than lumping us all together, allowing us our independence and if we agree to work together then that is great."
Tuwhare said there was a strong desire to settle, but also to get the best possible outcome and ensure hapū came out more empowered.
"People in Ngāpuhi are over the situation where they are passive participants in processes that directly affect our futures.
"A significant result would be one that puts us back on equal footing with the Crown.
"But none of the settlements have done that so far. We are after true partnership, and that requires constitutional change, allow us to be independent and govern ourselves. Be at the decision-making table for all decisions that affect Ngāpuhi."
Pita Tipene, deputy chairman of Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngāti Hine, this month reaffirmed Ngāti Hine's position that it wanted its own mandate.
He said hapū would be holding meetings throughout New Zealand and overseas - starting in August - to acquire that.
Other hapū have also indicated they would pursue their own mandates, while others are looking to work collaboratively with other hapū in their regions.
Meanwhile, Hone Sadler, chairman of Tūhoronuku, said some hapū had agreed to move away from the Tūhoronuku mandate, and the best option was to move forward with the evolved mandate, but they were awaiting comment from the Crown and would discuss it at the next hui.
Little had made it one of his priorities on reaching office to work – in good faith – to settle with Ngāpuhi.
He said he was "not fazed" by the latest rejection of a proposed settlement negotiation model, but it had made the Crown more cautious in its approach.
Living the dream
Anthony Warren worked 30 years at a gym in Kerikeri, each day passing through the streets of his town Kaikohe, full of youth "up to no good".
After he retired in 2010 he started Te Mira, and now it sees 1000 people come through the doors each month, many of them those tamariki from the street.
Warren just did it, something he hopes the leaders of his iwi Ngāpuhi can do as well.
He's not naïve to the intricacies and the politics, but he's just sad on what the area is missing out on.
"There is so much potential, in this town. These children just need some direction, some opportunities. I am living my dream, and I want everyone else to have that opportunity."
Monday: Iwi power: $2.4b from 30 years of Treaty of Waitangi settlements
Tuesday: Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei: The $1b hapū in the heart of the super city / Waikato-Tainui: The $1.4b iwi
Wednesday: Ngāi Tahu: From landless to a $2b iwi
Thursday: Ngāti Porou: A loyal iwi seeking to transform its community
Friday: Ngāpuhi: The bright future that beckons