Finlayson gets cold feet on a tikanga process in Tauranga Moana

Thursday 27 July 2017 was a happy day in Tauranga Moana. After a few months of protests, social media campaign, new media appearances, legal opinions and appeals to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Hon Chris Finlayson and Minister of Māori Development Hon Te Ururoa Flavell, we achieved our goal: an agreement by the Minister to delay signing the Hauraki Deed until after Tauranga Moana and Pare Hauraki had reached their own agreement on rights, interests and redress through a tikanga process. But as we approach the election, there is a growing risk of Finlayson rejecting the tikanga process and moving directly to a signing with Pare Hauraki.

This pause in proceedings in July came together when the Hon Nanaia Mahuta put the following questions to Finlayson in Parliament:


The relief here in Tauranga Moana was palpable. Plans for a Parliamentary protest were shelved as were other local campaigns of resistance. For those of you outside of Tauranga Moana, you may not be aware that bringing together our three iwi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pukenga required enormous effort and numerous hui throughout the moana. All three iwi have separate settlements, in Ranginui’s case each hapū has its own settlement, then there is a shared settlement for the moana, and cross-claims from north, west and south. That’s a lot of governors, a lot of negotiators and a lot of different agendas and opinions. But we did it. We came together. It was a kaupapa driven by our young people and our kuia and koroua; in the main our organisations followed along once they saw the passion of the moana.

The next stage was to develop the tikanga process that we could agree to here, and then to put that to Pare Hauraki. What most people wanted was kaumātua ki ngā kaumātua, pae tapu ki te pae tapu process; get past the negotiators and lawyers to those who lead our marae, our hapū and our iwi. This was always going to be hard to achieve and the small groups who have met to date have included people who are negotiators and lawyers, which does worry me; a tikanga process rises and falls on the integrity and the perceived honesty of the people involved, just as it does at the marae. Nevertheless, a tikanga process has been developed based on a Hohou Rongo process to reach a position that will enhance the tapu and mana of Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana and Ken Mair was appointed as our kaitakawaenga, an independent facilitator.

So from a Tauranga Moana perspective we felt was moving along. The general feeling here was that the distraction of the election also provided time in which to follow through on this process and to keep our people informed. More fool us. Last week at a hui our Minister of Māori Development  and our kaitakawaenga provided essentially a warning that Finlayson was concerned the tikanga process had fallen over, and if it had he could move to sign a deed with Pare Hauraki, even before the election.

At that hui, that was refuted, the tikanga process was explained again, Te Ururoa was satisfied and prepared to take that back to Finlayson, whilst Mair would go back to Paul Majurey to progress the next hui. I am in no doubt that there are people involved who would happily allow a tikanga process to collapse and move directly to a signing. There is nothing shocking in that. However, Finlayson even suggesting he may go back on his words in Parliament to support a tikanga process is shocking. His wriggle room is that little statement, “if it helps…”; if he feels it is not helping, it turns out he can close it all down.

Which is an illustration of who runs and benefits from the Treaty settlement process. We are without mana in our negotiations between iwi if Finlayson decides where that begins and ends. He is letting us play at being Māori until it is inconvenient for him. The only real power is the Crown’s authority. The Māori Party, iwi and urban Māori may be at the table, but it seems we are only allowed to order from the kids menu. The Treaty settlement process is an unjust process if the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations is not in true partnership with iwi in the country if he can make decisions about full and final settlements without the agreement of the iwi affected.

Were there true partnership between Tauranga Moana and Crown (which is what te Tiriti o Waitangi and our Deeds of Settlement assert is the case) then the Crown could not end a tikanga process in negotiating cross claims. The Crown could not suggest redress in our ahi kaa without agreement from us. The Crown would seek what is best for their partner in negotiations, not just what is best for the balance sheet. I’ll say it again: the Crown is the villain, the faithless and abusive partner in the disagreement between Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana on rights and interests. If they cannot trust us here to negotiate a way forward with our own whanaunga, than I assure you that neither the Tauranga Moana nor the Pare Hauraki settlements will be enduring. You will see us soon in the courts, in the tribunals and protesting on the steps of Parliament.