This opinion piece has been submitted Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngati Kahu in reply to a recent article by Fran O'Sullivan.
Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngati Kahu, the mandated body of the iwi Ngati Kahu, is made up of the 15 marae of Ngati Kahu.
Margaret Mutu has the full support of Te Runanga, her hapu and iwi in her work as chief negotiator and chairwoman. And that is based on her decades of hard work alongside her fellow Ngati Kahu.
Ngati Kahu does not "corruptly claim" assets because of a "preferred position". Ngati Kahu, with other iwi, was guaranteed a partnership with the Crown based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Te Tiriti is the foundation upon which Ngati Kahu has dealt with the Crown and its agents since 1840.
There has been no "considerable shift of cash and assets" into Ngati Kahu hands, nor has there been an "asset grab" by Ngati Kahu or other iwi as alleged by Fran O'Sullivan.
Ngati Kahu led its case before the Waitangi Tribunal between 1989 and 1994 and the Tribunal held Ngati Kahu claims to be well-founded in the Muriwhenua Report (1997).
It took until 2003 for the Crown to enter into negotiations with Ngati Kahu and Ngati Kahu has been in negotiations to settle those claims since, signing an Agreement in Principle with the Crown in September 2008.
To date there is no settlement and therefore no cash or asset transfer, although negotiations are continuing.
It has been a long and tortuous road to get to this point and to stick with the kaupapa for that time has required stamina and commitment at much personal cost for Margaret and others of Ngati Kahu.
When Ngati Kahu does settle it will not receive full recompense for the many thousands of acres of land lost and access to other resources including our waters, airways, minerals and the foreshore and seabed, wrongly taken by the Crown.
Treaty settlements are supposed to provide some redress in land or resources for the Crown's ill-gotten gains at Maori expense. In fact, in most settlements the redress accounts for approximately 1 per cent of the land and resources lost.
To imply, as Fran O'Sullivan does, that Maori must now use that meagre redress to address present and continuing Crown inefficiencies and incompetencies is ludicrous.
It certainly makes for great headlines to label iwi leaders "Maori aristocracy", imply they have the financial resources to cure the problem of abuse of our tamariki and are deliberately not doing so.
Ngati Kahu is fully aware that our people are disproportionately represented in negative statistics to do with child abuse and child mortality.
However, it is not the role of Ngati Kahu to subsidise the state in its social obligations to all New Zealanders, including Ngati Kahu.
As Margaret said to Sean Plunket in a radio interview on this point, Maori society was systematically taken apart under colonisation and there is a need to put it back together again.
Government servants in Wellington have had control of all the policies and the resources and they haven't made any positive difference to the situation.
The solution does not lie in Wellington, it lies with the iwi, provided the state transfers the authority and the resources for us to do it.
Like it or not, an active and engaged Tiriti partnership between Ngati Kahu and the Crown is the way that such statistics will be turned around.
From someone who has apparently covered politics and business in this country for more than 20 years, we would have expected Fran O'Sullivan to display a better understanding of the Treaty settlements process.
She makes claims without evidence about the Treaty process and we challenge her to back up her claims or stop stirring the pot.
Usually such journalism does not affect us in the slightest. We have endured its ilk for years. However, the personal attack on Margaret Mutu, chief negotiator and chairperson of Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngati Kahu, is offensive and unwarranted.
There is neither a "Maori aristocracy" nor a "tribal elite" within Ngati Kahu. Fran O'Sullivan should refrain from such mythmaking. No one who knows Margaret would accuse her of being "disturbingly remote", as Fran O'Sullivan did.
Not her Ngati Kahu whanaunga, the many students who have studied at Auckland University under her tutelage and certainly not the many reporters and journalists, both mainstream and Maori, who regularly contact her for informed comment on a vast range of matters.
They perhaps would only say that she has a sharp intellect, a great sense of humour and an enduring commitment along with all of Ngati Kahu to developing dynamic and exciting futures for our people. If that is the "long-term intergenerational game" that she is being accused of playing, so be it.
* The above piece was authorised by the following: Helen West (Aputerewa), Alan Hetaraka (Haititaimarangai), Yvonne Puriri (Kareponia), Ani Manuera (Karikari), Lenore Popata (Karepori), Wiremu Kaitoa (Kauhanga), Anne Batistich (Kenana), Tania Thomas (Mangataiore), Charlie Larkins (Oturu), Henry Yates (Takahue), Rikki Rolleston, Lisa McNabb, Te Karaka Karaka (Te Paatu), Lloyd Popata (Toatoa), Reremoana Renata (Waiaua), Sonny Tomars (Werowero) Timoti Flavell (Te Taumata Kaumatua o Ngati Kahu).