Tauranga Iwi blame the Crown for tribal conflicts

By Taroi Black

Protestors say their stance is against the crown, not the Port of Tauranga or Hauraki iwi.

Ngāti Ranginui spokesperson Charlie Rahiri says "this is the Crown's doing. We believe and it's their way to create conflict between tribal affairs. Some members from Hauraki have also attended today's protest and are in full support with Tauranga tribes."

Tauranga Moana iwi believe a date has been set by the Crown to sign a Deed of Settlement with Hauraki iwi which will hand over areas controlled by Tauranga Moana, particularly in Matakana Island. The Hauraki iwi Collective was established to represent 12 iwi.

"We heard that Hauraki have used their proverb "Mai Matakana (Hauraki) to Matakana (Tauranga)" and we disagree. Matakana already have established hapū on the island, so we don't agree with outside interest," Ngai Te Rangi member Meremaihi Aloua says.

In 2004 the Waitangi Tribunal said Hauraki iwi have customary interests in Tauranga Moana. But Ngāti Ranginui and Ngai Te Rangi claim the crown has kept them out of any major decisions regarding a Deed of Settlement. They say the Tauranga harbour symbolizes the crown hence their protest.

Charlie Rahiri says "we believe Hauraki Collective and the Crown have been meeting in secret so that's one issue Tauranga iwi Ngati Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pukenga are wanting to sort out."

Ngāti Hāua of the Waikato region also attended today's protest to support Tauranga tribes trying to protect what they believe is theirs.

Meremaihi Aloua says "this issue has brought the attention of other iwi in support of this cause which are Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Hāua (Waikato/Tainui), Ngāti Porou ki Hauraki and those who have also experienced the conflict towards Hauraki."

Waitangi Tribunal member Kihi Ngatai (Ngai Te Rangi) was born and bred in Tauranga Moana. The 87-year-old says he's never heard of any Hauraki connection to the area. 

"I was brought up here and my grandfather told me that these are the boundaries from Te Awanui to Taumata Korero which belong to Tauranga iwi, Hauraki wasn't mentioned."

In a statement by Minister Finlayson's office to Te Kāea this afternoon a spokesperson said no secret deal has been made. Ngai Te Rangi has been advised of this fact repeatedly.

The statement also said proposed arrangements for the Tauranga Moana Governance Group provide for four seats for Tauranga Moana iwi (this includes Ngai Te Rangi), one seat for iwi of Hauraki (and any other iwi with recognised interests in the Tauranga Moana catchment) and five seats for local government.

No date has been confirmed for the signing of a deed of settlement with Pare Hauraki. Officials informed Tauranga iwi of that fact last week. The intention is to sign the Pare Hauraki Collective Redress Deed when negotiations are closed.