Tribal leaders say they fear their deal with the Crown over Taranaki Maunga will not withstand a government set on axing recent iwi and hapū gains and reframing Te Tiriti.
National says it will not interfere with Treaty settlements but last year’s mountain deal is a not a Treaty settlement - and the redress deed Te Ruruku Pūtakerongo is not yet legally binding.
Avoiding the Waitangi Tribunal settlement process, eight iwi negotiated directly with the Crown, which admitted “immeasurable harm” in wrongly confiscating the maunga.
Negotiators accelerated the signing last September to get Te Ruruku Pūtakerongo on the legislative agenda before the election but it has not yet gone through Parliament to become law.
Parihaka Pā trustee Dr Ruakere Hond, who was on the national unity discussion panel at Tūrangawaewae two weeks ago, said no one was sure where the National-led coalition would stop.
“We just don’t know. Is this government going to choose that battle and say ‘Yeah, we want to have that out’?
“And there are the implications of a wider, deeper ideological approach that particularly the minor coalition parties have put in there, and said ‘this is what we want to stand on’.
“No-one really knows what the implications of these things are.”
Likewise, 2017′s Parihaka deed of reconciliation, Te Kawenata o Rongo, was directly negotiated with the Crown, so is also not a Treaty settlement.
Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka, the Parihaka Reconciliation Act became law in 2019, but Hond - who helped create and negotiate the deal - said the pā is now unsure of its future.
“Parihaka sits outside of the Treaty settlements: we’re a reconciliation. What does all this mean for their relationship with us?”
Under the maunga agreement, the peaks of the national park would become a legal person, Te Kāhui Tupua.
A body of half iwi and half Crown appointees would represent Te Kāhui Tupua, using values reflecting the cultural, spiritual, ancestral and historical relationships of iwi with the mountains.
Another group from all eight iwi of Taranaki would have to sign off any management plans together with the conservation minister.
Parihaka’s reconciliation created a Parihaka-Crown Leaders Forum and relationship agreements with central and local government agencies.
The new government partners have denounced such co-governance arrangements, while the coalition agreement sets out to remove co-governance from all public services.
‘Toxic and unfactual rhetoric’
The tumu whakarae (chief executive) of Te Korowai o Ngāruahine, Te Aorangi Dillon, fears the reaction if the maunga settlement is interfered with.
“I think they best be very, very careful with what they do next. Honestly, I think they don’t know. National doesn’t know. This is the issue.”
“This government has demonstrated white supremacism with actions against Māori rights and reo and its racist, toxic, and un-factual rhetoric,” she said.
“I mean, it’s evident. People shouldn’t be surprised by this,” she said.
“I think they equate it to America, you know, KKK and things like that: but it doesn’t all come in white pointed hats and white sheets.
“It comes in nice suits. It’s in legislation. It’s in policy. It is there to continue with the oppression of indigenous people. This is a worldwide model.”
During a recent press conference, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said he rejected the use of the term white supremacy to describe the government.
“It’s entirely inappropriate. I think it’s very offensive and very divisive and very unhelpful,” Luxon told media on 23 January.
“I want to see Māori thriving in this country. I want to see non-Māori thriving in this country.”
Iwi gather at Waitangi
Ngāruahine responded to Kīngi Tūheitia’s summons to Tūrangawaewae to discuss kotahitanga and mana motuhake (unity and self-determination).
The iwi was then at Rātana, and was headed to Waitangi “because we’re going to kohi kohi kōrero (gather talk) from everywhere,, Dillon said.
“But as an iwi we’re definitely rejecting a coalition policy agenda that uses legislation to threaten tangata whenua wellbeing. We are not going to accept that.”
“They haven’t seen what Māori can do, the full strength ... We’re not playing.”
Ngāti Ruanui leader and co-leader of Te Pāti Māori Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the new government hated co-governance and the maunga agreement was full of it.
“I have no doubt our Taranaki negotiators have been in discussions and seeking assurance. But how can you find real assurance when the fundamental tinkering with Te Tiriti is happening concurrently.”
Ngarewa-Packer said she blamed Luxon, despite ACT and New Zealand First driving the government’s Māori agenda.
“Why was he happy for the world to see our prime minister horse-trading off Māori rights and interests to gain power?
Maunga deal: ‘We’ve got the momentum’
Wharehoka Wano, tumu whakarito (chief executive) of Te Kāhui o Taranaki iwi, also represents the region among the dozen senior advisors to Kīngi Tūheitia - Tekau-ma-Rua.
Wano said negotiators made sure Te Ruruku Pūtakerongo was signed pre-election and he doubted even this government would derail the deal.
“We won’t be taking our foot off the pedal on the maunga, I’m confident that we’ve got the momentum.
“Kia mataara tātou [we have to be vigilant] of course, but it certainly hasn’t come up in any sense that I’ve seen.”
Wano said crucial agreements with local councils should continue.
“Certain people are roused to question whether we have a partnership role or if we’re mere stakeholders - within our takiwā, on our whenua, on our maunga, on our awa, on our coastline.”
“If that particular element is emboldened by the coalition stance we will respond in a very clear way. We have a kaitiaki role over our place and we won’t be backing away.”
What comes next?
Veteran broadcaster at Whanganui’s Awa FM and Ngā Rauru Kītahi kaikōrero Rauru Broughton witnessed the 10,000-plus crowd at Tūrangawaewae.
He overheard 13 year olds suggesting kaumātua, rangatahi and lawyers meet the government to resolve the situation, avoiding protests and marches.
“The kura kaupapa (te reo immersion schools) generation are coming through with a whole different understanding and expectation, because our tamariki have been taught our history and the actual facts of what happened.
“We can fight in a different way because this is not the 1860s. We have the knowledge, the understanding of the system, of government and we have people skilled in that area - lawyers, judges, academics.”
Broughton said te reo and tikanga underpinned the fight.
“That is the support pillar … Tikanga, our principles and our cultural pillars are very strong today.”
Meanwhile, Te Aorangi Dillon said hapū would soon decide how to interact with the government and many are invigorated stepping up to fight.
“The mana motuhake lies in the whenua, and the whenua sits with the hapū - whānau, hapū and marae.
“Actually, for me and for our iwi, this is an exciting time rather than a dismal time.”
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said Māori across the motu were fired up.
“I’m just a real fan of grassroots resistance. It’s awesome that we’re having a kōrero of unity in the big spaces, but awesome also that we’ve seen whānau, communities, rangatahi, kūrā, kōhanga, our mamas talking.
“I’ve heard lots of mamas having amazing discussions and, you know, that form of paepae is just as important as our national forums.”
Broughton is wary of the mood turning negative and “that whole scene from the Springbok tour raises its nasty head”.
“This could turn into a Springbok tour type of episode. If it’s happened before it can happen again, the violence and all that sort of stuff. You know we don’t want that for anybody.”
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Paul Goldsmith and Māori Crown Relations Minister Tama Potaka have been approached for comment.