Divisions in the country's largest iwi have spilled over, with two trustees walking away from Ngāpuhi's in-limbo Treaty negotiation board Tūhoronuku. A letter obtained by Newshub reveals trustees Sam Napia and Moana Tuwhare are pushing for the Government to drop Tūhoronuku's mandate to negotiate Ngāpuhi's treaty settlement.
It comes after the Maranga Mai report, which supporters claim would see Ngāpuhi sub-tribes or hapū given a greater voice, was voted down at a board meeting last Thursday. That's despite Minister for Treaty Settlements Chris Finalyson threatening to reassess the group's mandate if it doesn't vote in favour of implementing the report in full by September 20.
For two of the trustees the vote, taken in secret, was the final straw.
"I've lost faith in the majority of the board to do the right thing by the Ngāpuhi people," says Mr Napia.
"What I am prepared to do is to walk away from the board that no longer has the best interests of Ngāpuhi at its heart."
Mr Napia believes new leadership needs to take over, claiming two opposing factions of 11 trustees to 10 are freezing progress on the iwi's Treaty settlement.
"If the Tūhoronuku board is going to cease serving the interests of the Ngāpuhi people then it needs to get out of the way and provide an opportunity for other leadership in Ngāpuhi to step up - and when I say get out of the way, I don't exclude myself," says Mr Napia.
The majority on the board support disgraced leader Sonny Tau, who the Government believes should step aside following his criminal convictions.
Tūhoronuku chair Hone Sadler believes taking away the board's mandate would undo years of hard work. "Ngapuhi have [spent] six years of developing the structures of Tūhoronuku, and it's Ngāpuhi whose voted for Tūhoronuku to represent its interests." Mr Sadler says the Maranga Mai report wasn't passed in full on Thursday night because there were a few issues that needed to be fleshed out. "What I'm saying is that we haven't thrown out the whole of the report."
When asked for comment, Mr Finlayson told Newshub his position remains the same as that stated in the letter he sent to the Tūhoronuku board last month.
In that letter Mr Finlayson said: "If [Tūhoronuku] decided not to adopt the Maranga Mai recommendations in full the Crown will quickly assess its decision to recognise [Tūhoronuku's] mandate."
Mr Sadler says the threat will have no impact on their decision-making process and the Tūhoronuku board meeting will go ahead with its meeting on September 23 as planned – despite it being three days after the minister's deadline.
"The mandate is still there because Ngāpuhi gave us the mandate, not the Crown - the recognition may be revoked," he said.