February 24, 2023
Court no place for mana whenua row
Veteran Maori activist Tame Iti says the question of who is mana whenua in Tamaki Makaurau needs to be settled by Maori rather than the courts or government.
Tempers flared at this week’s welcome for Te Matatini participants when hosts Ngati Whatua Orakei used the occasion to reassert its claims for exclusive mana whenua, prompting a sharp rebuke from Waikato Tainui speaker Tukoroirangi Morgan.
Mr Iti says such debates were once commonplace, but now, unless listeners are fluent speakers, much of the meaning, significance and nuance simply cannot be understood.
He says pakeha courts can’t be the final arbiter in such deeply cultural matters.
“Let’s work something out, rather than go through the government, to make a decision for us. But I think more importantly you know, our children, our mokopuna, and everybody has to be there, and have those conversations. Let’s create an event that enables us to find a way that we can pull it together,” Mr Iti says.
He says its also not only Ngati Whatua and Tainui either – with several other iwi and hapu with competing manawhenua and mana moana claims in Tamaki Makaurau.
Ngatu Whatua Orakei has taken the issue to the High Court but failed to get the declarations it sought, with the judge finding that while it has ahi kā and mana whenua in central Tāmaki Makaurau according to its tikanga and historical tribal narrative, other iwi are free to continue beleiving their own tikanga and historical narratives.