Monday, June 20, 2011 • Alice Te Puni

MAHAKI cluster Treaty negotiations have been suspended until an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the forest claim of Mangatu Incorporation is heard.

Mahaki cluster and Rongo-whakaata lead negotiator Willie Te Aho said the urgent hearing would stall the Mahaki Treaty settlement for a further 13 months and allocation would not be achieved before July 2013.

While the joint deed of settlement signing planned to be in front of the wharenui Te Hau ki Turanga at Te Papa Museum next Tuesday is no longer possible for the cluster, Rongowhakaata may still forge ahead. But this depends on decisions made at hui tonight and tomorrow.

The scheduled joint Mahaki cluster and Rongowhakaata signing would have been the next step in a journey to right the injustices of Treaty breaches suffered by the Te Aitanga a Mahaki, (Gisborne to Matawai), Te Whanau a Kai (Patutahi and Waituhi) and Nga Ariki Kaiputahi (Mangatu) cluster and Rongowhakaata (Manutuke).

The Mahaki cluster officially known as Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Affiliates (TAMA) has a $46 million package including $31 million in cash. However, further compensation opportunities might be the findings from the Mangatu Incorporation’s urgent Tribunal hearing.

Mr Te Aho said the Turanga iwi he represents was disappointed because collaboration efforts to bring about a joint deed of settlement, joint initialling of the deed of settlement and joint property entity, and having the settlement legislated this year with allocation planned for next year, was no longer viable.

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations minister Chris Finlayson was also disappointed “to pause negotiations at this late stage”.

The Supreme Court had directed the Waitangi Tribunal to “urgently hear” an application by Alan Haronga and Mangatu Crown Forest Land, which was formerly part of the Mangatu No. 1 Block, he said.

“Pausing negotiations is necessary, as the Crown is not prepared to negotiate the settlement of historical claims while redress for those claims is simultaneously pursued through the courts or the Waitangi Tribunal.

“The Crown is not prepared to negotiate a non-comprehensive settlement by excluding claims over Mangatu No. 1 block.”

The land block is about 25 percent of the total Mangatu State forest, which is valued at $2.25 million based on the total value of the forest — $9 million.

Mr Haronga, the Mangatu Blocks chairman, has tried a number of times over the years to have the forest block issues addressed.

Mr Te Aho said the focus for the Mahaki cluster now was confirming its post settlement Governance entity — the Te Aitanga a Mahaki Settlement Trust — and internal allocations for separate administration, particularly to Te Whanau a Kai and Nga Ariki Kaiputahi.

The Mahaki cluster is still considering its legal approach to the hearing, he said.

“It is likely that at least two of our claimant groups Nga Ariki Kaiputahi and Te Whanau a Kai will want to be heard with Mangatu Inc.”

One critical issue the Mahaki cluster is considering is whether or not the scope of the hearing should be broadened to cover the entire Mangatu forest and whether or not TAMA should seek the return of all the State Owned Enterprise lands, including Landcorp farms, lands with resumption (automatic return) memorials like the Emerald, the former post office building, railway and other properties.

A rough estimation of the value of State Owned Enterprise lands including Landcorp farms is approximately $25m.

“The pros and cons and future strategies will also be discussed at Rongowhakaata hui tonight and tomorrow but it is likely that both Rongowhakaata and Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Affiliates will seek the return of all Crown Forest Land lands and all SOEs lands plus compensation for prejudices suffered,” said Mr Te Aho.

• Both the Mahaki cluster and Rongowhakaata have until Friday to file submissions to the Waitangi Tribunal.