Friday, October 14, 2005

A mighty totara

Claude Edwards died this month, aged 73. He was a long serving secretary of the Opotiki-based Whakatohea Maori Trust Board and the most public face of the tribe for many years.

Edwards' long-standing friendship with National's treaty negotiations minister Doug Graham meant Graham took a personal interest in getting negotiations off the ground for Whakatohea's claims regarding confiscation of land in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

In October 1996 Edwards and his chief negotiator John Delamere signed a deed of settlement for a $40 million package of land, cash and other management rights. The signing was on short notice because the parties wanted to get Cabinet sign off on the deal before the election. Delamere was also headed to Parliament as a NZ First MP.

A communication breakdown in the tribe meant some members of the negotiating committee were not informed, resulting in a campaign led by Ranginui Walker and his brother Tairongo Amoamo to reject the deal. A mail ballot of beneficiaries, conducted over the heads of the negotiating committee by the Whakatohea Trust Board, found against accepting the settlement.

With divisions between claimants deepening, the settlement offer was withdrawn. In March 1998. Graham spat the dummy and said Whakatohea would have to go to the back of the queue.

Even at the time that seemed an appalling decision. It cemented the notion that settlement offers were made on a "take it or leave it" basis and showed the Crown was not equipped to handle the tensions and disruptions in tribal life its interventions cause.

This year Edwards applied to the Maori Land Court for a determination on Whakatohea's customary rights to its coastline, including "rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga". It is the first application under the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and poses real challenges to that legislation.

A mighty champion has fallen.


Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Adam, if you get a spam fiter or word verifier, please get one like rodney Hide has on his site. Many others are impossible to decipher with crazy mixed up fonts.


12:27 PM  
Blogger t selwyn said...

Good summation for Claude and his work, Adam. His daughter, Adrianna, is active in the Maori Party in Opotiki and will hopefully advance Claude's vision.

FYI: My father is now on the Trust Board and must help sort out the problems within. I was always against the Crown's tokenistic compensation deal, but those who were willing to advance it in the face of opposition and from a starting point of nothing needed courage to do so. I have heard the term "Whakatohea shuffle" used to describe the back-of-the-queue system!

3:50 PM  
Blogger David Farrar said...

What alternative was there for the Government apart from to put them at the back of the queue?

Take it or leave it only years of negotiation and compromise on many points. But once both sides have signed off on a deal, failure to endorse it is a big issue.

If one just headed straight back to the negotiating table, then the message it would send out to every other Iwi is negotitate for the best deal you can get, then reject ratifying it, and then start negotiating again for a better deal and you can't lose.

Graham as I recall it did not sulk. He merely said that they will need a more generous Minister than him, as that was his best offer.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

David. Two points.
1. When the Whakatohea negotiation broke down, the Crown's response was "ungrateful natives, always fighting, their fault, no fault on our part," rather than asking whether the negotiation process was flawed. I contend that the process, and in particular the culturally tin-eared bureacratic Office of Treaty Settlements, have major failings which need to be addressed if we are to have sustainable long term settlements.
2. This notion that "iwi" will refuse to ratify settlements as a mechanism to ratchet them up is not a real world scenario. I can understand that someone from your side of the political fence may have a different view of the nitty gritty of industrial relations, but that's not the way ratification processes work. The art of negotiation is to not go back to the membership with a proposal they will reject. Apart from the personalities involved, the mistake with Whakatohea was probably trying to rush a deal through before the election.

10:25 PM  

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