All the way from Tuhoe country ... Maungapohatu ... to the High Court
The Waitangi Tribunal has rebuffed two groups challenging the mandate of the Tuhoe authority Te Kotahi a Tuhoe and the recently incorporated Tuhoe Establishment Trust in the iwi's treaty settlement. Supporters of Te Umutaoroa, a hapu grouping attempting to withdraw their mandate for Te Kotahi to represent them in treaty settlement negotiations; and Robert Pouwhare and Maaki Hokianga, on behalf of Ngati Haka Patuheuheu, lodged urgent applications with the tribunal.
Tuhoe is due to receive $66 million in July from its share of the $400m "Treelords" deal – the Central North Island Forests Iwi Collective settlement – and was required to establish a trust to receive its forestry assets. The tribunal found neither applicant group had showed how significant and irreversible prejudice would accrue to them from the actions of Te Kotahi or the establishment trust.
It also found there were provisions in the Central North Island forests deed of settlement and the establishment trust to resolve mandating issues within Tuhoe. There was also an alternative remedy in the form of High Court proceedings, taking place yesterday and today in Wellington, in which Te Umutaoroa is challenging the process adopted by Te Kotahi trustees for resolution of the CNI forest land claims, and the establishment trust's mandate and representation.
The tribunal said that additional dispute resolution processes had emerged and it understood Te Umutaoroa, Te Kotahi and the Crown had agreed to participate in them.
"Finally, the applicants have not clearly demonstrated that the Crown has an obligation in this particular circumstance to intervene in what seems to be a matter for Tuhoe to resolve internally."
However, the tribunal found a third application, lodged by Vernon Winitana, showed that Waikaremoana iwi Ngati Ruapani was likely to suffer "significant and irreversible prejudice," should it remain included in the Tuhoe Establishment Trust deed and that it should be removed. The tribunal agreed that Ngati Ruapani was scheduled to begin its own treaty settlement negotiation with the Crown and that any such settlement would value the benefit Ngati Ruapani received from the Central North Island forest settlement through its beneficiary status under the establishment trust. However, this situation ignored that Ngati Ruapani would not have had sufficient influence in the manner in which it might benefit from the forest settlement assets. Citing this, the iwi had last year secured the Crown's approval to withdraw Ngati Ruapani's mandate from Te Kotahi a Tuhoe.
"We recommend that the Crown immediately take all necessary steps to facilitate the withdrawal of Ngati Ruapani from the establishment trust and that the trustees of that trust and Te Kotahi take all necessary steps to co-operate fully with the Crown in that regard."