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Report on Whakatōhea Mandate Claims

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Crown breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi when it recognised the mandate of the Whakatōhea Pre-settlement Claims Trust to enter into settlement negotiations on behalf of Whakatōhea, the Waitangi Tribunal has found.

In its Whakatōhea Mandate Inquiry Report released today (17 April 2018), the Tribunal concluded there had been a failure to fulfil the Crown’s duty to act reasonably, honourably, and in good faith, and that this constitutes a breach of the Treaty principles of partnership and active protection.

Presiding Officer for the inquiry, Judge Michael Doogan, said: ‘We believe it came about because the Crown effectively prioritised its political objective of concluding settlements by mid-2020 over a process that was fair to Whakatōhea. This not only caused prejudice to Whakatōhea, it also puts at significant risk the prospect of a durable settlement based upon a restored Treaty relationship.

‘The particular circumstances within Whakatōhea in 2016 that were known to the Crown required more than the expedient of picking and backing the group considered most likely to achieve the Crown’s objective of a quick settlement,’ Judge Doogan said, in his letter of transmittal to the Minister of Māori Development.

In its report, the Tribunal identifies a lack of balance in the mandate process and says that this strongly implies a pre-determined outcome. The Tribunal says those opposed to the mandate have good reason to feel that their concerns were not given a fair hearing.

It was also wrong for the Crown to include Whakatōhea in the strategy to accelerate settlements known as "Broadening the Reach" in October 2016.

Historically, Whakatōhea have endured some of the worst Treaty breaches, which include war and raupatu.

More recently, the iwi has been much divided over a failed attempt to settle in 1996.

The Crown and the Pre-Settlement Trust signed an Agreement in Principle to settle the claims in August 2017 and expect to finalise their negotiations within the next 12 to 18 months.

The Tribunal recommends a temporary halt to negotiations in order that all of Whakatōhea be given a chance to vote on how to proceed. In their report, the Tribunal state in draft form what they believe should be the questions to be voted upon.

To avoid any further prejudice to Whakatōhea, the Tribunal recommends that the Crown commit to maintaining its current settlement offer and pay interest on the cash component of the settlement offer.

The Tribunal also recommends that Whakatōhea must be given an opportunity to vote on a hapū basis. It says this is consistent with the tikanga for mandate recognition that was endorsed by Whakatōhea in 2007.

The Tribunal heard the claims under urgency in late 2017, in Whakatāne. The panel hearing claims comprised Judge Doogan (presiding), Associate Professor Tom Roa, Dr Robyn Anderson, and Mr Basil Morrison.

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