The Mōkai Pātea Waitangi Claims Trust has been given the mandate to represent northern Rangitīkei iwi in the settlement of their land claims.
This was a source of relief to trust chairman Utiku Potaka, who was grateful for the support of whaānau, hapū and iwi in what the Crown has called the Taihape Inquiry Area.
However, that mandate continued to be opposed by the Ngāti Hinemanu me Ngāti Paki Heritage Trust, chairman Jordan Haines-Winiata said.
Its people want recognition as separate iwi. They had already been excluded from negotiations in Ahuriri (Napier) and Heretaunga (Hastings) claims, Haines-Winiata said.
They voted to withdraw their Taihape area claims at two hui held in Taihape and Hastings in July last year.
The advice given to the Minister of Treaty Settlements about the people he represents was wrong, Haines-Winiata said, and was a continuing breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Ngāti Hinemanu and Ngāti Paki opposition was the reason it has taken nearly five years for the Mōkai Pātea Waitangi Claims Trust (MPWCT) to achieve mandate, Potaka said, despite the trust getting 80 per cent support when the mandate vote was held in 2019.
The trust had done "everything possible" to include Ngāti Hinemanu and Ngāti Paki.
Now that mandate has been decided by Te Arawhiti (the Office for Māori Crown Relations), Ngāti Hinemanu and Ngāti Paki can ask to withdraw their claims. That would sadden Potaka and begin a process as robust as the process to agree mandate.
"Fifty verified members of a hapū must make a statement of withdrawal, for example," he said.
If the claims were withdrawn, the Crown may not agree to negotiate them with a hapū because it had a preference for "large natural groups" such as that represented by the MPWCT.
Whatever happens, the trust's next job is to agree terms of negotiation with Te Arawhiti and move toward an agreement in principle, using direct negotiation.
The area's parallel Waitangi Tribunal process is set to finish in June.
The trust will also have to decide on a negotiation team, based on people's skills and availability.
There would be some important matters to negotiate, Potaka said.
Mōkai Pātea was one of the last areas of Aotearoa-New Zealand where Māori land was alienated by the Crown and Pākehā settlers. This included Tiriti breaches that occurred when well-developed Māori sheep farms and kāinga were lost in the 1890s, most infamously when Winiata Te Whaaro was arrested and his whānau evicted from Pokopoko.
Negotiations will include the use of tribal land for military training, and the fact that access to some tribal land is only possible by air. Environmental effects on the Rangitīkei River will be another big focus.