Ngati Kahu: It's the iwi that decides

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Anahera Herbert-Graves, Chief Executive, Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngati Kahu. Photo / supplied.
Anahera Herbert-Graves, Chief Executive, Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngati Kahu. Photo / supplied.

It is Ngati Kahu, not the Crown, that determines who holds the mandate to represent Ngati Kahu.

So Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngati Kahu chief executive Anahera Herbert-Graves said after a weekend hui-a-iwi where hapu representatives on the treaty claims team addressed the "very large number of inaccuracies" in Melissa Peters' statement.

"It is Ngati Kahu, not the Crown, who determines who holds the mandate to represent Ngati Kahu," ms Herbert-Graves said.

"The Crown decides whom it will recognise for purposes of negotiation only.

"Ngati Kahu is not in negotiations with the Crown, and are instead pursuing their legal rights through the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, as instructed by their hapu and marae [which] rejected the settlement offer made by the Crown, and the tribunal failed to adhere to its legal obligations.

"Crown recognition of the mandate given by Ngati Kahu is not required in the courts or the Waitangi Tribunal."

The runanga had succeeded in the High Court, and then the Court of Appeal, in overturning the tribunal's decision not to make binding recommendations for the return of Ngati Kahu lands.

The tribunal had been ordered to make the recommendations.

"The Crown is vehemently opposed to this, and in order to try and circumvent this has sought to blackmail Ngati Kahu by advising that they will suspend their recognition of the mandate of the runanga if it proceeds to seek binding recommendations, but will support a mandate reconfirmation for the runanga to the tune of $94,400 if it doesn't seek binding recommendations and instead re-engages in negotiations," she said.

An Official Information Act request had revealed correspondence to the Minister or the Office of Treaty Settlements from only three of Ngati Kahu's 15 marae and three individuals (from more than 14,000 iwi members), including Ms Peters, who had been providing large amounts of misinformation about the runanga.

The three dissident marae had told the Crown that they wished to settle their own claims, rather than having them included with all other historical iwi claims, represented by the runanga.

Only two of those marae had claims, and the Crown had told them it would only negotiate with them if they represented all of Ngati Kahu.

"Clearly they don't," Ms Herbert-Graves said.

Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngati Kahu currently held the mandate to represent 12 Ngati Kahu claims, including five that were upheld by the tribunal in 1997, and the only Ngati Kahu-wide claim lodged by McCully Matiu in 1984.

Those claimants, and 12 of the 15 marae, had instructed the runanga to pursue their legal rights through the Waitangi Tribunal for binding recommendations.

"Te runanga has never tried to impose itself on marae or hapu, as it is a construct of the marae and hapu," she added.

"If marae and hapu do not wish to be represented by te Runanga then they are free to withdraw.

"A place will continue to be held open for them to re-engage if they ever wish. Te Runanga has repeatedly advised the Crown that it will not impose itself on those marae and hapu who do not wish to be represented by it.

"Te Runanga holds hui regularly to discuss the claims and to confirm its mandate. Melissa Peters has not attended either those or the runanga's regular monthly hui."

Ms Peters had no claim, let alone a well-founded one, before the tribunal. Nor did she have any legal training that would enable her to express an opinion regarding a legal mandate, or any experience or knowledge of treaty negotiations or settlements, let alone the experience of te runanga or the current negotiators.

"Very importantly, unlike te runanga, Ms Peters has neither sought nor received the mandate to represent in any capacity any of the claims of Ngati Kahu, most especially the well-founded claims," Ms Herbert-Graves said.

"There will always be some who disagree with the mandated entity -- the tribunal itself recognised this, and said it was unreasonable to expect 100 per cent support.

"Te Runanga will continue to try to seek unity for Ngati Kahu, particularly in the next important steps through the tribunal.

- Northland Age

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