Iwi want to sort out their own issues

Some Tauranga Maori marched across the Wairoa Bridge last year to protest what they considered to be encroachments by Hauraki iwi on their territory. File photo.

Tauranga iwi Ngai Te Rangi are joining with Auckland iwi Ngati Whatua in a hikoi to Wellington to advocate for a ‘tikanga’ approach to dealing with intertribal grievances.

Today a Supreme Court case begins in which Ngati Whatua will argue that tikanga, or Maori custom and culture, is being diminished by government decision-making and needs to be restored.

The case comes ahead of an impending decision by Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little on whether he will sign a settlement with a collective of Hauraki iwi that would transfer ‘mana whenua’ status in Tauranga to them from Tauranga iwi.

Ngai Te Rangi has been arguing that those Hauraki iwi do not have any marae in Tauranga, have no history in Tauranga, have no ancestors buried there, have not kept any home fires burning there.

Ngai Te Rangi is wanting a traditional tikanga process to take place between the individual iwi that make up the Hauraki Collective to use cultural systems of inquiry to have those iwi lay out the basis on their claim. 

Ngai Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley says tikanga is a sophisticated inquisitorial system based in centuries of use by Maori.

“It is a system that is understood, tested, and based on simple principles of whakapapa and ahi kaa.

“The Crown has a problem with cross claims between iwi, and use of the existing western legal system is causing everyone to flounder around trying to put square pegs in round holes.  What needs to happen is for the Crown to recognise that cross claims are between iwi and the solution will be found by iwi through discussions on marae. 

“It takes time to ensure that is done properly, but we are looking for a just and enduring solution, so it will pay to take the time to get it right.”

Paora says the large number of iwi gathering around the catch cry ‘Takahi Mana Takahi Tikanga’ will be at the hikoi to support Ngati Whatua’s efforts in the Supreme Court and also send a message to the Labour caucus and other parties that signing a Hauraki deal in the form it is in will lead to ongoing trouble and new rounds of grievances. 

Ngai Te Rangi iwi settlements trust chair Charlie Tawhiao says they sat in on a Maori Affairs Select Committee hearing last week and it was ‘clear’ that across parties, MPs are seeing how tenuous the basis of the Hauraki claim within Tauranga Moana is.

“They are looking for a diplomatic means of coming to a more equitable solution than is presently on the table. 

“What came out of the MPs’ discussion was what looked like a general agreement that a new direction was required. 

“We argue that tikanga has the systems and is the most effective way to move forward.  Therefore, we are urging Minister Little to decide to put the cross claim into a tikanga forum where it can be discussed and debated, and evidence of interests can be laid out in front of everyone.”

“Maori said at the last election we will give Labour a chance to show what they can do,” says Paora.

“If the first major initiative for Maori is to attempt to snuff out the use of tikanga or the cultural basis of our being then we have our message.

“However, through the work of Kelvin Davis, Andrew Little, and the rest of the Maori caucus and of key Maori MPs in parliament, this could be a moment of great significance when it finally dawns on people that in tikanga we have a useful tool of governance that is based in antiquity but brings smart inquisitorial options for solving modern problems.” 

Ngai Te Rangi will join with Ngati Whatua in the hikoi that will be held on May 15 starting at 8.30am at the Bluebridge Ferry Terminal.

Speakers will address the hikoi at Parliament.

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