Robin Potangaroa. PHOTO/FILE

STEVE RENDLE
steve.rendle@age.co.nz

A 71.7 per cent vote in favour of accepting a $93 million Treaty of Waitangi settlement has been hailed as “strong support” by Ngati Kahungunu’s Settlement Trust, but the deal remains a contentious issue with two groups pushing separate claims.

A voter turnout of 33.1 per cent of registered iwi members was a good response, trust chairman Robin Potangaroa said.

“I think if you asked the Crown, they would say it is a good turnout – it is usually in the low 20s for Treaty settlements.

“People are over it . .  if Maori are happy, they don’t bother. If they are angry, they will turn up.”

The Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua settlement is made up of the cash settlement and 9000ha of land.

The proposed purchase of two Landcorp farms – Wairio Station and Rangedale Station – received 71.5 per cent support in the vote.

But the Ngai Tumapuhia-a-Rangi hapu and the Wairarapa Moana Incorporated campaigned for members to vote no and believe the settlement would change significantly after their respective Waitangi Tribunal hearings in December.

Tumapuhia is seeking the return of Ngaumu Forest, and WMI took action because it believes the settlement does not address its claim relating to the loss of Pouakani lands in Mangakino, or make provision for restoration of the
Wairarapa Lakes.

The chairman of the Tumapuhia group who sought the hearing, Mark Chamberlain, shares the view that many iwi members “couldn’t care less”, but that is the limit of his agreement with Potangaroa.

He remained confident that the hapu’s hearing with the tribunal will have a successful outcome.

“If both Tumapuhia’s hearing and that of Wairarapa Moana Incorporated are successful, it will leave a big hole in their ratified settlement,” he said.

“Their ratification is not going to change the fact that, as far as I’m concerned, Tumapuhia will be taking ownership of Ngaumu Forest.”

In a statement, WIM said the 2010 Waitangi Tribunal Report, Wairarapa ki Tararua, was highly critical of the amount of compensation paid to Wairarapa Moana owners in the 1950s for the land taken for the Maraetai Dam.

“The Waitangi Tribunal described the compensation as ‘niggardly in the extreme’, compared to the value that the Crown had derived over the past 70 years, which is well over $1 billion.”

Potangaroa says both claims were “doomed to fail” and was particularly scathing of WMI’s ‘vote no’ campaign.

An earlier vote on the agreement in principle had attracted 87 per cent support.

“The negative campaign to encourage people to vote no actually confused people and stopped them voting – I find that reprehensible.”

He says it will now be up to the ministers for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Maori Development to review the voting results and decide if there is sufficient support for the Crown and the trust to sign the Deed of Settlement.

“We’ve faced a number of delays in our settlement process due to Crown resourcing and have been disappointed at some of the internal factions that have come up – these have taken time and resources that could have been focused on progress,” he says.

“But we are confident in the mahi we have done, the transparent information we have shared with our people, and the factual inaccuracies we’ve been able to correct.

“We made sure our people were well informed before they voted.”