Treaty Minister to mediate secret meeting with rival Ngāpuhi settlement leaders

Sonny Tau of Tūhoronuku will be one of four representatives at a meeting with Andrew Little this weekend to try and settle Ngāpuhi treaty claim.
Sonny Tau of Tūhoronuku will be one of four representatives at a meeting with Andrew Little this weekend to try and settle Ngāpuhi treaty claim. Photo credit: Newshub. / File

The Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister is hosting Ngāpuhi leaders from two rival groups this weekend, to discuss a path to settlement for the country's largest iwi. 

Hōne Sadler and Sonny Tau of Tūhoronuku and Pita Tipene and Rudy Taylor of Te Kotahitanga have been invited to meet with Andrew Little in Wellington on Saturday and Sunday.

Tūhoronuku's mandate to negotiate on behalf of the whole Ngāpuhi iwi is questioned by Te Kotahitanga, which claims it does not adequately represent the voice of hapū (subtribes).

A report titled Maranga Mai was the last attempt to find a way forward for the Northland iwi, however it was voted down by the Tūhoronuku board in September 2016.

In an email obtained by Newshub, the minister's private secretary makes clear the meeting is only for the four iwi leaders invited.

"The minister wants the two leaders only from each of [Tūhoronuku] and Te Kotahitanga as named above no substitutes and no additions," the email says. 

"[Māori Development] Minister [Nanaia] Mahuta has expressed an interest in attending but her attendance is yet to be confirmed at this stage. 

"I will attend as the minister's private secretary but no one else will be admitted to the room (or to the Beehive).

"Minister Little wishes to maintain the integrity of this meeting and not give publicity to the fact it is happening. The meeting itself may agree on how to deal with media queries following its conclusion.

"The minister is focussed on using this hui to propose and discuss a solution. The exercise will require compromise, imagination and leadership from all parties. 

"The minister acknowledges that any conclusion reached may have to go back to the people you represent. The meeting will agree next steps for this purpose."

Mr Tipene initially declined the meeting, saying that he did not have a mandate to attend on behalf of Te Kotahitanga. 

However, at a hui at Maitaitaua Marae in Hokiānga on Wednesday, Te Kotahitanga members backed both Mr Tipene and Mr Taylor to attend - on the condition they make no decisions on behalf of the group and that anything discussed will be laid out at the next meeting.

When contacted by Newshub on Friday, Mr Sadler, who is the chair of Tūhoronuku, declined to comment.

"With Ngāpuhi being by far the biggest iwi and settling some 20 years after the settlement process began, the Ngāpuhi fiscal settlement alone should touch the half billion dollar mark," Mr Sadler said in February.

"Every month we delay settlement is several million dollars lost in interest alone. That's more than $200 million lost since mandate was granted by Ngāpuhi in September 2011. "

Mr Tipene was unavailable at the time Newshub called, as was Mr Taylor.

A spokesperson for Mr Little said he was unavailable to comment further on Friday Night, as he was at an event in Christchurch.

The spokesperson reiterated the meeting was meant to be confidential to the four iwi leaders and the minister.