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Conflict claims at Runanga

By Geoff Vause

[email protected]

Members of hapu connected to marae near Riversdale Beach say an alleged conflict of interest could harm their interests in the recent Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu Treaty of Waitangi settlement process.

Okautete Marae and Motuwairaka Marae both affiliate to the hapu Ngai Tumapuhia A Rangi.

Two elders, Jack Morris and Hoani Paku, speaking for around 400 members of both marae, say the hapu’s interests are marginalised by having Ian Perry chairing both Te Runanga O Ngai Tumapuhia A Rangi (the Runanga) and Ngati Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa Ki Tamaki Nui a Rua Settlement Trust (the Trust).

The stakes are high, with millions of dollars tied up in Ngaumu forestry, fishing interests, and the crucial protection and management of wahi tapu which is more about spiritual and culture significance than a share in Treaty settlement cash and assets.

Mr Perry is chairman of both the Runanga and the Trust, and some in his own hapu say the two roles should be mutually exclusive.

“It’s a matter of getting the horse in front of the cart,” Mr Paku said.

“We have pointed out the conflict. Mr Perry has shown us he will not take the legitimate concerns of the Runanga forward to the Trust despite agreeing to do so at Runanga meetings.”

Both Mr Paku and Mr Morris believe the conflict emerged with inadequate consultation by the Trust, leaving Okautete and Motuwairaka without proper redress from the Crown.

They say the Runanga had not followed the trust deed and had no mandate from the hapu to settle their land claim (Wai 429).

This rendered the Agreement in Principle or AIP – the Treaty deal signed with the Crown – invalid.

They took their concerns to Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson who has dodged the problem by refusing to meet, instead flicking the ball back to the Runanga and the Trust.

“There was an eighty-seven per cent agreement to sign an AIP with the Crown,” Mr Finlayson said last month.

“I encourage you to work with the Trust and with your Runanga,” he said.

The Runanga met at Masterton on Sunday, where some of the grievances were aired.

Mr Morris said he asked chairman Ian Perry if Runanga trustees would continue to operate as unelected trustees.

“The answer was ‘yes’. It was also decided to initiate a disputes resolution process, fittingly enough,” Mr Morris said.

“The dispute is plain. Trustees are not being elected and are making decisions – including on land claim matters – without a mandate.”

He said it was “farcical” for a disputes process to be offered with no start date.

“Let’s be clear about the relationship between Te Runanga O Ngai Tumapuhia A Rangi and the Ngati Kahungunu Ki Tamaki Nui A Rua Settlement Trust.

“The Settlement Trust has its own internal election process to appoint negotiators. Ian Perry is an appointed negotiator but was first put forward as a representative following a hapu meeting in 2010.

“Obviously, one of our concerns is the conflict of interest Ian has as Chairman of Trust while at the same time representing the interests of Ngai Tumapuhia A Rangi

“We do not see how both roles can be performed in concert and we see this as a conflict.

“It is unwise for the Crown to push forward with settlements which could lead to more grievances.”

Mr Perry declined to comment in detail on the allegations.

He said the Runanga had the mandate to settle the hapu’s claim on behalf of its members.

“This mandate is supported by an overwhelmingly large majority of the hapu,” Mr Perry said.

“It is an internal matter. The dispute resolution is underway, and we have the mechanisms and processes in place for that.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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