Iwi leaders debate having one voice

By Ripeka Timutimu

An iwi leader says the Iwi Chairs Forum should be the primary representative body for all Māori in NZ. Haami Piripi of Te Rarawa says the forum and the NZ Māori Council could have a combined voice for Māori.

It's a united front here at the Iwi Chairs Forum.

Haami Piripi says siding up with the Māori Council could be the way forward.

“Both need to work together and build a relationship so there is one collective voice for Māori.”

There's no doubting the forum's ability to get the ear of the government, but some say representing Māori as a whole is a step too far.

“You can't talk for everyone, but the chairs on this forum can unite. Beyond that, it's impossible”, says Ngāpuhi leader Sonny Tau.

“Some say that our genealogies are so interwoven that one Māori can speak for the rest. That may be true, but if you're talking about tribal independence, you have to act with caution”, says Waihoroi Shortland from Ngāti Hine.

“If there is to be one voice for Māori, I don't think that someone from Taranaki should represent the views of Te Arawa”, says Toby Curtis from Te Arawa.

Around 60 iwi chairs met here today, but there was no space for urban Māori at the table.

“This is an iwi forum. Urban authorities can advocate for their own issues”, says Tainui representative Rahui Papa.

“It's time we united on issues like the foreshore and seabed, like water. It's only right that we consolidate, fighting is a waste of time”, says NUMA Chairman Willie Jackson.

But Makere Mutu says we need to think outside of the box for a new Māori voice.

“Find someone to represent Māori. It shouldn't be ours, or the Māori Council.”

It's said conversation is food of chiefs. So no doubt there will be more conversation on this contentious subject.