May 10, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori land claim taken to UN: Opinion – Annette Sykes

4 min read

This is a sad indictment on the failure of the Waitangi Tribunal to deal with genuine grievances for those most protected by the Treaty and who have suffered the most by the process of colonisation that is whanau and hapu. It also gives credence to the view that Maori claims are not about justice or the restoration of rights but about a token agreement of recognition by Key and his colleagues around the dispossession of Maori. His speeches at Waitangi this year were instructive as to his view of Treaty settlements in this regard.

AnnetteSykesFThis move however is not unexpected and is welcomed by many of us who are engaged in this process and are feeling as if we are getting worn down by a powerful Crown machine who wishes to pick who it deals with, cut back room arrangements which have no teeth and very rarely restore hapu their rights to even be on their land never mind about own it or have a say over its future administration. The Iwi devolution process which we all critiqued in the 1980’s has arrived in stealth, delivered by the buddies of the business round table as part of a new assault by the new right on the democratic freedoms we all possess.

There is now a series of decisions from the Tribunal and affirmed by the High Court and Court of Appeal that the policy of the Crown will now dictate the efficacy of dealing with matters in negotiation notwithstanding obvious concerns by a huge number of hapu claimant groups.

I suggest if anyone is interested that they download a copy of the latest Court of Appeal case by noble justice campaigner Ken Mair. Ken was represented by Rodney Harrison QC and notwithstanding a sympathetic hearing by the High Court was informed by the Court of Appeal that the disaffected few ( he represents the mana whenua hapu of some of the forest lands in dispute) were not able to seek a remedy because the negotiations process was essentially driven by political and not legal aspirations

The case highlights that first up best dressed seems to be the dictate of the day. Ken Mair and Ngahina Matthewswere concerned that their own claims would be prejudiced by legislation giving effect to a settlement for Ngati Apa when their own claims were just being heard and yet to be reported on, so sought urgent tribunal hearings of their claims. In the High Court, Justice Alan MacKenzie ruled the tribunal erred in the way it approached the urgency decision, refusing to hear Mr Mair and Mr Matthews.

Justice MacKenzie said the tribunal failed to consider all aspects of the prejudice that would be suffered by Mr Matthews if the application for urgency were not granted.He ordered the tribunal to reconsider both urgency applications.

But In a decision the Court of Appeal found that the tribunal made no error in the way it approached either application. In the Court of Appeal, Justice Robert Chambers, Justice Mark O’Regan and Justice David Baragwanath allowed the appeal against the High Court judgment. Baragwanath had a minority decision on a technical point of law but generally agreed with the majority.

Without boring you all it has been a hard 12 months. Notable leaders like Robert Pouwhare; Ken Mair and Ngahina Matthews; Alan Haronga and Paul Morgan many of whom have fought for nearly thirty years for the claims of their hapu manawhenua interests are being sidelined as ‘The Crown’ cuts deals with those who are prepared to assert the veil of a mandate. The whole process smacks of nepotism especially when we see that people being negotiated with are also on the Crown’s payroll in a number of other contexts. The announcement last week that people like Tuku Morgan received over 170,000 dollars as a facilitator from the Crown while he was being paid during the same period by his own tribal authority as a negotiator albeit in different contexts must raise eyebrows.

Those people who are fighting hard to retain the mana rangatiratanga of many who have passed on need to be acknowledged as the barefoot leaders of our people as Friere spoke of and not those who are the back room buddies of the Crown Ministers and their business round table colleagues.

I hope that the Maori Party wakes up soon to their complicity in this whole mess. It is no longer sufficient to say these are issues between the Crown and the iwi. We all know that the Iwi they are talking with are one or two individuals who are not reporting regularly to those who hold the mana of the claims that have long been unresolved. It is shameful that they do not recognise that as part of the Crown they should influence where they see injustice to ensure the principles of whanau and hapu that they espouse in the context of Whanau Ora are the underpinnings of this significant issue.

There are many of us who want some informed discussion on this too but it seems that there is now a cartel operating in the heart of the Maori Media to prevent open discourse of this kind. There was hardly a murmur by the newsrooms at Te Karere or Te Kaea when these decisions came out and certainly the issues that the ACT party raised about payments to negotiators deserved more than the desultory two minutes of air time that it received. Where are the solutions some may say.

They have been put up several times before but there is no one bold enough to seek the constitutional adjustment that is required to make the Crown accountable to its own processes and manipulations of justice. Hopefully the United Nations and the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights will provide us with a conscience as a nation to deal with this openly and honestly rather than the way people are being marginalised unjustly now.

2 thoughts on “Maori land claim taken to UN: Opinion – Annette Sykes

  1. Rore & I fully endorse the comments made and are really disappointed that in the political arena Maori Party are forced to take a stance that they may not necessarily agree with to progress their positives on other issues. How do we support the progress of the real issues without denigrating the Maori Party who are working constructively to advance Maori?

    We find it particularly difficult to align ourselves to Iwi issues when we know that some of the Iwi we are negotiating alongside feel threatened that we dare to sue the Crown because we do not agree with theirs and Iwi's conclusions!

    We are part of several of the Iwi that are objecting, but we are confused that they believe we are against ourselves. How can this be resolved??

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