Waitangi Tribunal asks Govt to stop settlement amid inquiry findings

The Waitangi Tribunal has asked the Government to urgently stop a multimillion-dollar Treaty settlement, just days out from being introduced in Parliament.

A damning inquiry into the Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki Nui-ā-Rua settlement has found the group negotiating the deal did not have the backing of enough members.

Specifically, it did not have the authority to negotiate certain aspects of the settlement on behalf of Ngāi Tūmapūhia-ā-Rangi and the Wairarapa Moana ki Pouākani Incorporation.

Wairarapa Moana Chairman Kingi Smiler is among those who have been challenging the mandate of the Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki nui-ā-Rua Settlement Trust.

“The key finding was the settlement trust did not have the mandate to settle either WAI85 or WAI429, that [the Crown] followed a flawed and unfair process and breached the principles of the Treaty

The descendants of the iwi only recently signed the settlement at a big ceremony in Wellington last month, after 20 years of negotiations.

But it may come to an abrupt halt, with the Tribunal telling the Government it should not proceed with the settlement.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little thinks the Tribunal has got it wrong.

“I think the Tribunal is factually wrong on some matters, for example saying that the Ngati Kahungunu Trust didn’t have the mandate.

"Actually, there was a vote and people supported it, two or three months ago," he said.

He is promising to meet with two opposing groups before the settlement is introduced to Parliament next week.

But he is eager to press ahead.

“I am keen to try to progress this as much as possible because they and their people have been waiting a long time,” he said.

Opponent Sir Kim Workman, also a member of Wairarapa Moana, doesn’t buy that.

He is accusing the Government of wanting to settle quickly so it doesn’t have to part with any more money.

“Usually the Bill is introduced into the house months after the [signing of the] settlement. For them to do that within two weeks smells,” he said.

Central to the opposing groups’ argument is that they want two parcels of land included in the settlement — Pouākani land near Mangakino in Waikato and the Ngāumu Forest near Masterton.

In a separate ruling, the Waitangi Tribunal agreed that land should be returned.

Multiple parties are challenging that and the issue is set to be heard in the Supreme Court next year.

The opposing groups are asking the Government to wait until the Supreme Court has heard their claim before finalising the settlement.

“The Crown's behaviour is very similar to the Foreshore and Seabed process where they’re trying to lock us out from our having fair day in court, our right to be heard and our right to justice," Smiler said.

Sir Kim said if the Crown decided to ignore the Tribunal’s request, there would be consequences.

“It will divide the different groups within Wairarapa for the next 100 years probably.”

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki nui-ā-Rua Settlement Trust has been approached for comment.