Opinion: Taniwha in Tainui

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(By Rawiri Taonui)There is an old Maori saying ko Waikato, he piko, he taniwha – at each bend along the Waikato River lies a chief.

That is the conundrum that lies at the heart of the tensions dividing Tainui.

Tainui have opted for a complex structure to control their affairs – the hereditary Kingitanga, the elected Te Kauhanganui parliament, an eleven-member Te Arataura cabinet-like executive chaired by Tuku Morgan, and a CEO led Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Incorporated administrative arm all play a role.

Those tensions were on show when King Tuheitia Paki and Te Arataura, the executive body of Waikato-Tainui, reinstated the chair of the iwis parliament Te Kauhanganui, conceding her dismissal this month by the King was unconstitutional. Tania Martin was dismissed for writing a report criticising spending by the executive.

She sought an injunction. When the issue came tothe High Court, the executive backed down informing the judge it recognised Ms Martin as the duly elected chair of Te Kauhanganui until such time she was either removed by the parliament or resigned.

Justice Rodney Hansen declined an injunction saying the executives concession should be enough.

Further recriminations seem likely given a subsequent press release again condemning Ms Martin, reiterating the Kings lack of support for her and claiming she had failed to obtain an injunction. Clearly she didnt need to because she won.

Although deliberately pre-emptive, Ms Martins report raises valid questions. Amongst other things it alleged a secretive spending blow-out by the executive of 30 per cent this year to $2.5 million. Mr Morgan refutes this saying spending will be less than last years $1.7 million.

The report questions why annual honoraria to executive members increased $15,000 and were backdated (netting nice individual windfalls) while grants to tribal members and marae are declining.

Ms Martin was highly critical of Mr Morgan who receives $75,000 as Te Arataua chair plus $40,000 in an associated role as principal negotiator a position Mrs Martin says is redundant now that the Waikato River claim has been settled for which Mr Morgan received an additional $100,000 bonus. Underpinning these allegations are fears tribal elites are lining their pockets while the majority misses out.

Critics say Mr Morgan is the puppet-master behind the throne of King Tuheitia.

Mr Morgan is a canny powerhouse. Possessing one of the best combinations of strategic acumen, political nous and tikanga skills in Maoridom he is a man with vision who is an effective voice for iwi nationwide.

However, he sometimes pushes the envelope too far and needs to take people with him. The shadow of the 1990s Aotearoa Television underpants saga still haunts him, although both the Serious Fraud Office and Commerce Commission found he had done nothing illegal.

There are strains between the hereditary Kingship and the democracy of the parliament, something no other tribe faces as it is Waikato-Tainui who hold the institution of the Kingitanga on behalf of all tribes.

Although, old-time chiefs often acted to enforce unity, King Tuheitias actions undermined the democracy of the parliament, bypassed standing dispute resolution processes, was unconstitutional and jeopardised the mana of the Kingitanga as a unifying force both within and outside the tribe, something his predecessors, including his mother built up over many years.

There are allegations he swore at tribal members and disquiet about an inner circle of non-Tainui advisors.

The Martin espisode is the latest in a series of internal coups, counter-coups, purges and public denunciations that has seen members of the executive dumped, allegations of leaking and resignations with demands for fresh elections.

The political pogroms partly stem from sensitivity over media reports in 2000 unfairly ridiculing the tribe for mismanaging its Treaty settlement compared to Ngai Tahu on the basis both had received $170 million. In fact, the way the book value of returned lands was counted for Tainui but not Ngai Tahu meant the latter received $100 million more in cash. Tainui has therefore done extraordinarily well growing a $640 million asset on par with Ngai Tahu.

But it is the complexity of the governing arrangements that is the biggest contributor.

Bigger than the Beehive and more democratic than democracy the parliament seems large – comprising one kaumatua (elder), pakeke (adult) and rangatahi (youth) from 68 constituent marae – multiple cross-generational voices have value but there are complexities especially when there is a crisis.

By comparison, Ngai Tahu have one central 18 person r?nanga-executive.

The heads of the parliament and the executive clash. Current rules bar the parliamentary chair from sitting on the executive. It seems self-evident they be at that table short of one person chairing both bodies.

Solving these equations will lead the tribe into the future. Final decisions belong to the 60,000 people of Tainui and their King – indivisible for all time; they are the heart of the tribe.

Indeed at every bend along the mighty Waikato lies a taniwha.

Dr Rawiri Taonui is a Maori political commentator and academic – rtaonui@xtra.co.nz

2 COMMENTS

  1. Of course the corporate arm tends to Waikato hapuu more, they were the ones who suffered most land loss under the Raupatu, and the so called Tainui Confederation was only coined when pakeha began to survey the regions. Regardless of these facts Waikato and Maniapoto, although strongly independent have ties that are closer than most, and at times almost impossible to distinguish and extinguish! Do not forget many of those within the Waikato rohe are also Ngati Maniapoto hence the term, that many whanau consider themselves as Waikato Maniapoto. A single entity representing both sides of their whakapapa. I know the Maniapoto whanau from Waingaro (Waikato marae) very well and they are proud 2 call themselves Waikato, just as they are proud of their surname Maniapoto! It's sad that a lot of Ngati Maniapoto believe that it's a them versus us thing.. this certainly isn't what Kotahitanga is about and not the future either of our tipuna saw for our ppl. If you don't like Tuku or Tuheitia and feel that Ngati Maniapoto are not getting what they are entitled to then just say it.. don't try and turn it in2 an iwi on iwi thing.

    Indeed there are many taniwha in Tainui.. and as many may have just witnessed, they do not only reside in within the Waikato river!

    TAINUI WAKA E NGUNGURU NEI..

  2. The other major problem that overlaps this idea of Tainui being a confederation is the fact that this set up only has a Ngaati Maniapoto by proxy. As such Tukuroirangi Morgan is an executive member of a corporate arm that tends to Waikato hapuu interests. Tania Martin is the chair and therefore manager of the Kauhanganui and it is she that the media and academic's should focus on as being the leader of Tainui. It is my opinion that one of the primary reason why Tuku and Tuheitia could not remove and never will be able too is because Tania is Ngaati Maniapoto and a Ngaati Maniapoto woman. We will protect her and make sure she can continue to do the job that she was voted to do. Mihirawhiti Searancke – Ngaati Rora, Ngawaeroa – Ngaati Maniapoto

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