Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust shouldn't have sold land, members claim

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North of Auckland is a small iwi with a big history.

Iwi members of Ngāti Manuhiri ki Ōmaha all descend directly from one woman, Rahui Te Kiri. Rahui and her husband Tenetahi were the last occupants of Little Barrier Island known as Te Hauturu o Toi, they were forcibly removed in 1896 but not without a fight.

Now six generations on, her great, great-granddaughters Annie and Sherie Baines are fighting to honour her - they're questioning the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust, which is meant to operate in their best interests.

They're upset the trust has sold lands without adequate consultation and they're calling for transparency.

In 2012 the iwi settled its Treaty claims, receiving a commercial and financial package worth $9 million. It was able to purchase the Mangawhai South Forest as part of the redress. Just a year later 450 hectares of lands were sold and transferred for an exclusive housing development and golf course.

The Baines claim the trust should have come back to the people and consulted before selling the land.

The trust is run by trustees John Paki, Marilyn O'Brien and Ringi Brown. It's chief executive and Treaty negotiator is Mook Hohneck. In a statement, the trust said back in 2012 it received 98 percent support from those who voted.

"The Settlement Trust has shut the doors and windows on us," says another iwi descendant and former marae trustee Roi McCabe.

Mr McCabe says he was shocked to learn the trust had sold the land to a housing developer and transferred 175 hectares to the Auckland Council in exchange for the right to develop the land.

The Settlement Trust says: "It was never cultural redress. Mangawhai South Forest is a commercial asset which needs to deliver economic, social and cultural outcomes for Ngati Manuhiri. The settlement was ratified according to due crown process and received 98 percent of support from votes cast. That's a very strong mandate and direction by the tribal members."

Rahui Te Kiri lived till she was 101 years old, and after Little Barrier Island was confiscated by the Crown for a nature reserve she lived in Leigh looking out to the island.

Annie Baines says Rahui Te Kiri was given money for the island but she never ever collected it - she says the reason being she was so unhappy about it.

Auckland University law lecturer Khylee Quince says Ngāti Manuhiri is not unique, and iwi need to have open conversations about how post-settlement looks like.

The Baines still live on a piece of Rahui Te Kiri's paradise at Pākiri Beach. The land has been in their family for hundreds of years, and their mother Christine Baines says you get given the land, it's not yours to sell - you have to hold on to it until the next generation is ready for it.

The Baines sisters say they will always fight to hold onto the whenua their tupuna rahui fought so hard to keep.

The Hui