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Groups in settlement pushback

Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua settlement documentation. PHOTO/FILE

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Three Wairarapa groups are pushing back on a historic treaty settlement between the Crown and the Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Settlement Trust.

The settlement trust and the Crown signed a deed of settlement in late October, hoping to end decades of deliberation.

Now, Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani Incorporation [Wai 3058], Ngai Tumupuhia-a-Rangi hapu [Wai 429], and the Rangitane Tu Mai Ra Trust [Wai 3068] have succeeded in having an urgent hearing through the Waitangi Tribunal.

The tribunal said all three groups had argued that the Crown had decided to sign the deed of settlement with the settlement trust on bases that were “unfair or wrong”.

They argued that the Crown has proceeded with “undue haste” to resolve matters with the settlement trust without involving them and that the Crown had been unwilling to stop to mend matters with them.

“These actions and omissions, they say, breach the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi,” the tribunal said.

However, the tribunal said the bill to enact the settlement could be introduced to the House of Representatives any day this week from yesterday.

It said if passed, the bill would “extinguish” its authority to make any binding recommendations.

In response to the groups’ claims that the signing of the deed of settlement was “unfair and wrong”, settlement trust chairman Haami Te Whaiti said the deed of settlement had been signed after the Crown found sufficient support for the settlement.

He said this was because of processes before and while they went to a vote this year.

Te Whaiti said through the voting process, hosting and livestreaming hui [meeting], and regularly providing comprehensive updates both online and in the mail to its members – the settlement trust felt the process was fair.

In a joint statement, the groups said the Crown had signed a deed of settlement that included the Wai 429 claim of Ngai Tumapuhia-a-Rangi hapu without its support or consent.

They said the settlement also included a commercial redress of Ngaumu Crown forest lands that Ngai Tumapuhia-a-Rangi claim mana whenua [authority] over.

They said the forest lands were subject to an application for resumption under section 8HB of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975.

The groups said the tribunal had agreed to hear the claim under extreme urgency together with claims made by the Wairarapa ki Pouakani Incorporation and the Rangitane Tu Mai Ra Trust.

“A hearing was held on 11 and 12 November, and on 18 November, the Waitangi Tribunal released its decision in favour of the claimants.”

The tribunal said in its decision document that the Settlement Trust “had no mandate to enter into settlement with the Crown concerning the interests of Ngai Tumapuhia-a-Rangi and the Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani Incorporation in Ngaumu Forest [Wai 429] and land at Pouakani”.

“We concluded that because of the cumulative effect of the deficiencies we identified, the process was unfair, will exacerbate divisions in the claimant community, and will not be durable.”

It said its “primary and strong” recommendation was that that the proposed settlement with the Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Settlement Trust should not proceed at this stage.

The groups said this was a “great result” for them as claimants: “It is now time for the Crown to follow the recommendations of the tribunal and uphold its te Tiriti [treaty] obligations to the hapu [community] and whanau [family] impacted by the Crown’s actions.”

They said Jess Jenkins, a 14th generation descendant of Tumapuhia, had launched a petition for just consideration of Ngai Tumapuhia-a-Rangi.

Te Whaiti said the journey to settlement had been long and winding, with the first claims lodged nearly three decades ago.

“We often turn our minds to those who started this journey but are no longer with us.

“The settlement trust believes we are the lucky ones who will see our dreams realised through this process, and after so many delays due to litigation, it is difficult to be in this position today.”

He said the settlement trust was confident it would reach its intended outcome.

Te Whaiti said the settlement trust trustees had a hui [meeting] scheduled this week to discuss its next steps.

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