A Tauranga Moana kaumatua challenges Andrew Little at Parliament, Tuesday 15 May. Image: RNZ

Our message to Andrew Little: stop before you breach the Treaty of Waitangi

Competing North Island iwi groups Tauranga Moana and Pare Hauraki were on track to negotiate a tikanga process for Treaty settlement talks – face to face, on the marae, no lawyers. Then the government changed hands and tikanga talks went out the window, writes Graham Cameron.

My daughter Hinengākau may have delayed your morning commute if you were in central Wellington on Tuesday morning. She was there with hundreds from Tauranga Moana demanding a tikanga process between Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana be settled prior to the signing of the Pare Hauraki Deed of Settlement.

They were in Wellington because three letters were sent from Minister of Treaty Negotiations Andrew Little to Tauranga Moana in April which all had the same message: the minister intended to sign the Deed of Settlement with Pare Hauraki pending any new information from the three iwi of Tauranga Moana. The letters also mentioned the tikanga process, sniffily suggesting that any such process could continue post-signing.

That Pare Hauraki Collective Redress Deed could see Tauranga Moana under new management. It’s difficult to be sure what’s in it, but if the previously initialled Deed is anything to go by, it will include the recognition of Pare Hauraki interests in Tauranga Moana harbour and land.

Let me step back a little way to help you understand what’s going on.

The people of Pare Hauraki are represented by a collective of 12 iwi. Most of us at home have thought of those iwi as being located around the Coromandel and the Firth of Thames. They are family with iwi bordering that area including Tauranga Moana.

Tauranga Moana has three iwi: Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pūkenga. We occupy Tauranga harbour and the encircling hills and ranges. We are family with iwi bordering our area, including Pare Hauraki.

Family relationships mean that many of us have ‘interests’ outside of our area. For example, my Pirirākau hapū in Te Puna, north of Bethlehem, have ‘interests’ in some areas of Ngāti Hinerangi land, east of Matamata. But ‘interests’ are different to ‘rights.’

Here’s the rub: the Pare Hauraki Redress Deed will overturn that understanding and equate ‘interests’ with ‘rights.’

If they have both interests and rights, then will be considered mana whenua. If they are mana whenua, then it is legally required that they have a say over all resource management and consent issues in Tauranga Moana going forward.

They are doing this through Hauraki ancestors Taraia and Tukukino who married into Tauranga Moana. What is disappointing about this claim is that Taraia and Tukukino always identified themselves as Ngāti Ranginui when they were in Tauranga Moana.

What Pare Hauraki argue is that the in-laws who have ‘interests’ by virtue of marriage, also have ‘rights’ to the land and harbour of their partners. The Chief Negotiator for Pare Hauraki, Paul Majurey, asserts that Ngāti Ranginui agreed to this in 2012.

Ngāti Ranginui negotiators did attempt to reach agreement with Pare Hauraki. One of those agreements was about the Athenree forest bordering the north part of the harbour. Pare Hauraki interests and rights were recognised in this land that borders Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana, and a practical split 60/40 split was agreed at that point. Other pieces of land have also been agreed to; these are quite specific and relate to particular whānau from both Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana who were occupying pockets of land in Tauranga Moana between the signing of Te Tiriti and the confiscations in the 1860s.

But we never agreed that Pare Hauraki are mana whenua in Tauranga Moana. In fact, we thought these agreements were the honourable way to acknowledge Hauraki interests and protect our mana whenua rights.

More fool us.

So when the first iteration of the Pare Hauraki Deed of Settlement went public and previous minister Chris Finlayson said he would sign it in early 2017, the whole of Tauranga Moana protested through every avenue. You may remember we blockaded the harbour and the Wairoa bridge on SH2. Around all that were many many meetings with politicians.

As a consequence of pressure Chris Finlayson agreed in late July 2017 to delay the signing until a tikanga process had been completed between Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana to settle the issue of interests and rights.

One hui was held at which it was agreed that each party would return to their iwi and agree what that tikanga process would look like. We had the wānanga about the tikanga process here in Tauranga Moana. The process – face to face, paepae tapu to paepae tapu, led by our pakeke and led by the hapū most affected, no legal representatives, on the marae – was unanimously supported.

We didn’t really hear anything back. Then an election was held. And now we have a new minister.

We have continued to invite Pare Hauraki to join us in moving forward in the tikanga process. For example, in the last few weeks our leading kaumātua Kihi Ngātai has gone above and beyond to invite Pare Hauraki to meet with us.

But their negotiating team can see a way to avoid a tikanga process: a naive minister who is not fully abreast of the issues.

Minister Andrew Little wants to get things done in the settlement space. So his instinct is to see things that take time as barriers. And the chief negotiator for Pare Hauraki has done his best to put the case that Tauranga Moana are trying to deny Hauraki a just settlement.

If the minister denies Tauranga Moana the right to reach a resolution with Pare Hauraki using a tikanga process before any signing occurs, he will have willfully breached te Tiriti o Waitangi. He will have made a decision that our tikanga, protected under Article II, is subject to the authority of the Crown.

This is the exact nature of contemporary claims being prepared in Tauranga Moana: the process that the Crown has used in reaching a Deed of Settlement with Pare Hauraki is a breach that has threatened the mana whenua of Tauranga Moana.

Tauranga Moana speak with one voice on this matter: we want a just settlement for our whanaunga in Pare Hauraki. We will not accept that the Crown needs to erode a just settlement for Tauranga Moana to do so.

I believe the minister is committed to justice for past wrongs. He can demonstrate that when he shows himself committed to allowing tāngata whenua to lead the way to justice. He needs to articulate publicly that a tikanga process must come before he can finalise and sign off the Pare Hauraki Deed of Settlement.

Graham Bidois Cameron (Ngāti Ranginui) is a commentator on social and political issues concerning tangata whenua. He is based in Tauranga Moana.

Update 16 May: This article has been updated to reflect that a previous Deed of Redress was initialled rather than signed, and that the correct title is the Pare Hauraki Collective Redress Deed.


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