A battle royal is under way within the Treaty settlements process that has huge implications for future relations between Maori and the Crown.
It is a situation infused with intrigue, mystery and secret deals as the Crown appears intent on attempting to restructure Maori traditional power centres and replace them with a configuration of its choosing.
The Hauraki Collective is a grouping of tribes loosely based around the Hauraki Plains but with ambitions to inveigle political influence in the traditional tribal areas of Auckland, Northland and Great Barrier Island, and the Bay of Plenty.
This Hauraki strategy first appeared in 2006 when just as Ngati Whatua of Orakei was about to sign its Treaty settlement, the Hauraki Collective brought overlapping claims which the Crown was unusually quick to agree to.
That meant Ngati Whatua Orakei was put in a position that it had to agree to a new collective agreement over volcanic cones and a regional pact that has effectively allowed 19 other tribes to be involved on equal terms in Auckland tribal governance or face having its long-negotiated settlement go to the back of the queue.
Reluctantly Orakei agreed and the consequences of that decision, and legal and tikanga aspects of that decision, are now being challenged in the courts.
What that hastily constructed Crown agreement did was give Hauraki increasing control in areas where they had not traditionally operated.
Hauraki lawyer Paul Majurey was quickly appointed to chair several key Auckland iwi bodies, further cementing a Hauraki hold on areas where they had no traditional place.
That same tactic is now being applied in Tauranga where Hauraki is asserting it has claims, and inexplicably the Crown and Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson readily agreed.
There are generally considered three iwi groups that have long-term control in the Tauranga area, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Ranginui and Ngati Pukenga. However, the Crown is now supporting Hauraki's push to take control of that area as well.
With past experience as a guide, Paul Majurey's assertion that the Hauraki Collective extends from Matakana in the north to Matakana Island is an indicator he intends to seek control of Matakana Island in the Tauranga harbour. The same Hauraki/Crown strategy is being played out in other traditional areas of Ngatiwai in Northland and in Tainui areas.
The mystery that has not yet been answered is why this is so important to the Crown. In areas throughout the eastern North Island Maori are scratching their heads as to how this one group has been able to run roughshod over iwi after iwi in conjunction with Crown support.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Crown and Hauraki continue to engage in secret signings of agreements, while documents made available to other tribes are redacted and/or have gone "missing" or simply not released.
There is now a push to sign a Deed of Settlement with the Hauraki Collective for their entry into Tauranga Moana as quickly as possible even though Ngai Te Rangi iwi have an application for an urgent hearing in the Waitangi Tribunal to look at the case.
Ngati Whatua of Orakei has been involved in a case before the Appeals Court that argued the collective arrangement in Auckland overrides tikanga or traditional arrangements. During a recent High Court hearing a judge made comment that in signing the collective agreement, Ngati Whatua Orakei had given away their mana whenua status in Auckland.
Of course, no tribal group would ever sign anything if they knew that would be the consequence, therefore this recent series of secret Finlayson/Hauraki agreements appears to be nothing more than a return to the blankets and beads methods of the 1840s, 50s, 60s, of taking land to redistribute control based on allegiance to something the Crown wanted.
What is needed is an inquiry into the dealing of the Crown with the Hauraki Collective that injuncts all agreements while a decade and a half of behind the scenes dealing is brought into the light of day.
• Dr Hauata Palmer is a kaumatua of Ngai Te Rangi Tauranga Moana.
Hauraki's shared claim to Tauranga already accepted
By Paul Majurey
Pare Hauraki, the 12 iwi of Hauraki, have been the target of a Tauranga iwi campaign against our Treaty settlements. They have incited ill-temper which could escalate if left unchecked.
At the heart of their constructed tension is the following mantra: there is a secret deal between Pare Hauraki and the Crown; we are foreigners; and we are trying to take over Tauranga harbour. While such claims play to the media, they bear no resemblance to the facts.
The Tauranga iwi have finished their settlements and received nearly all of their Treaty redress. Pare Hauraki is still yet to settle despite starting Treaty negotiations in 2009.
As to "secret deals", the paper trail is clear that the leadership of Tauranga iwi have been aware of our settlement redress since 2012, and on an ongoing basis as our negotiations have progressed.
The Tauranga iwi leadership jointly negotiated some of that redress with us and the Crown during 2012-2014. Treaty redress was negotiated and agreed between us.
Pare Hauraki and Tauranga iwi, for example, agreed the split of Athenree Forest (60:40 in favour of Pare Hauraki) and an equal number of first right of refusal properties in the area between Athenree and Te Puna. There is extensive documentation of these negotiations. Some secret.
As to "foreigners", it is odd Tauranga iwi would spend years negotiating and reaching Treaty agreements with outsiders for areas well inside the Tauranga harbour catchment.
And, in its 2004 Tauranga Moana report, the Waitangi Tribunal confirmed the centuries-old customary interests of Pare Hauraki in these areas.
The Tribunal also recognised the overlapping and shared interests between Pare Hauraki and Tauranga iwi. These findings have never been challenged by Tauranga iwi. Some foreigners.
As to "taking over", this is a reference to the co-governance entity for the harbour and catchments - the Tauranga Moana Governance Group. Pare Hauraki have one seat of 10. We will be there because of our customary interests - as recognised by the Waitangi Tribunal.
Tauranga iwi leadership have known about our seat since 2014. They also knew this was the arrangement when they signed their collective settlement in 2015 which provided for this regime. Some takeover.
Why are Tauranga iwi reneging on good faith agreements made years ago? The reason may lie in a surprising place. In November 2016, the Māori Affairs select committee produced its report on the Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāi Pōtiki Claims Settlement Bill. The committee made the following statement on overlapping claims:
"We received several submissions noting dissatisfaction about overlapping claims, two of which dispute Hauraki iwi interests in Tauranga Moana. We sought advice from the Office of Treaty Settlements about how it determined the extent of Hauraki interests in the Tauranga Moana catchment. We were advised that the Waitangi Tribunal report guided those considerations, and therefore future provision for the interests of overlapping claimants will be made in the Tauranga Moana Framework. We note that Tauranga Moana iwi have the opportunity to challenge Crown recognition of Hauraki interests in the overlapped area, but they have not taken this action."
The evolving Tauranga iwi PR campaign now claims a tikanga process (doing what is right) is required and that Pare Hauraki has "interests" but not "rights". Yet, throughout those 2012-14 joint negotiations, they recognised not only our interests but also our rights to redress.
It is our tikanga to honour agreements. If that is not Tauranga's tikanga, no amount of talking on the marae will provide absolution.
Whatever the authenticity of any interests/rights distinction, the complex and interwoven nature of customary interests is real. If the Treaty settlement process does not accommodate shared and overlapping interests, there would be no settlements in many parts of the country, for example Auckland.
Tāmaki Makaurau was a historical melting pot of many tribes. That is why the Waitangi Tribunal rejected the 2006 bid by one hapu for an exclusive central Auckland settlement. The lessons learned from that blunder fundamentally changed the Treaty settlement landscape.
It led to inclusive settlement processes which resulted, for example, in a pan-tribal Auckland collective settlement and 19 iwi/hapu having mana whenua recognition with Auckland Council.
Pare Hauraki has lost many of our old people since we began negotiations in 2009. It is a travesty they did not live to see what they put in motion. It is time for Tauranga iwi to shelve the PR stunts and honour their agreements. It is time for us to work together to protect the taonga to which we belong. It is time to settle.
• Paul Majurey is chairman of the Hauraki Collective.