Ngāpuhi Mandate Inquiry report released
The Ngāpuhi Mandate Inquiry Report was released in final form on 21 December 2015. It was the outcome of an inquiry into 15 claims, primarily from Ngāpuhi hapū and collectives of hapū, relating to the Crown’s recognition of the Tūhoronuku Independent Mandated Authority (the Tūhoronuku IMA) as having a mandate to enter negotiations to settle the historical claims of all Ngāpuhi.
The hearings, held under urgency, took place at Waitangi in December 2014 and Wellington in March 2015. The panel appointed to hear the claims was comprised of Judge Sarah Reeves (presiding officer), Dr Robyn Anderson, Mr Kihi Ngatai, and Lady Tureiti Moxon.
On 14 February 2014 the Crown officially recognised the Tūhoronuku IMA as having secured a mandate from the people of Ngāpuhi to enter settlement negotiations on their behalf. The claimants alleged that the Crown had pre-determined its decision to give this recognition. They did not support the Tūhoronuku IMA and argued that it undermined the rangatiratanga of their hapū. Of particular concern to the claimants was the inability for hapū to choose not to be represented by the Tūhoronuku IMA. This issue was exacerbated, in their view, by their inability to control who they were represented by within the structure of the Tūhoronuku IMA.
In the report, the Tribunal found that the Crown had not pre-determined its decision recognise the mandate secured by the Tūhoronuku IMA. It stated that the Crown’s involvement in the mandating process was typified by regular, genuine, and high-level engagement over a period of years and that there was ample evidence of the parties engaging in good faith to accommodate differences.
The Tribunal went on to find the strength of hapū autonomy is a defining characteristic of Ngāpuhi. As such, any entity seeking to represent Ngāpuhi in settlement negotiations had to produce clear evidence of hapū support for its mandate. The Crown had a primary Treaty duty to actively protect the rangatiratanga of Ngāpuhi hapū in deciding how and by whom they would be represented in settlement negotiations. The Crown failed in this duty by recognising the mandate of the Tūhoronuku IMA in the absence of clear evidence of hapū support for its mandate. Further, the structure and processes of the Tūhoronuku IMA undermined hapū and their ability to make crucial decisions affecting the settlement of their claims.
The Tribunal identified flaws in the structure and processes of the Tūhoronuku IMA and found the Crown to have breached the Treaty. It did not, however, believe that the Crown should withdraw its recognition of the mandate and require that a new mandate process take place. The Tribunal believed that there was broad support within Ngāpuhi for negotiations towards settlement and that flaws identified in the Tūhoronuku IMA could be remedied. Noting that ‘Strength comes from choice, not from lack of it’ the Tribunal recommended that the Crown halt negotiations with the Tūhoronuku IMA to give Ngāpuhi the opportunity to address the issues it has identified. In particular, the Tribunal considered it vitally important that the hapū of Ngāpuhi have the opportunity to determine whether they wish to continue being represented by the Tūhoronuku IMA.
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