It was a full house at Waitangi today with over 400 people in attendance for Andrew Little's first meeting with Ngāpuhi as Minister of Treaty Negotiations. Its follows separate meetings yesterday with the mandated authority Tūhoronuku and Te Kotahitanga o ngā hapu o Ngāpuhi.
The Minister made it clear he had come to listen and those given the opportunity to speak, starting with the Ngāpuhi leader and veteran activist Titewhai Harawira.
"Listen to this kaupapa. You come to Ngāpuhi with a kaupapa and the only kaupapa we want to hear is that you're going to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and He Whakaputanga."
The Whangaroa district claimant Pat Tauroa says, "Come to our rohe and assist us to get our hapū to an understanding where they have the skills to adequately use the resources that you say will come to us. That's what we need right now."
Little responded with, "The issue of hapū rangatiratanga is real and I think plenty of the kōrero today was actually about that, respect the hapū and involve the hapū. But doing that doesn't mean to say we don't still look at one settlement. And it is about getting the momentum around talks. Getting the links and connections and relationships working so that we involve hapū."
The issue of sovereignty was another key issue raised with the minister as he received a full range of views from those in grievance mode to the advice of a former unionist/spiritualist on how to deal successfully with his people.
Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara descendant Hare Hohepa said, "Ngāpuhi is strong, we just don't realise it. This government has worked for so long to keep us divided to keep us apart and to rule us. And its time for our people to pull together."
Only last month in its closing submissions, counsel for the Crown quoted the relevant legislation whereby it's not required to reply to the findings of the stage one hearing of the Waitangi Tribunal that Ngapuhi did not cede sovereignty. But now a new minister with a new approach has created new hope with twelve years now passed since the start of the Te Paparahi o te Raki claims.
Former National MP Dick Dargaville was one of the Ngāpuhi elders to welcome the Minister, "Come and you will see it's the hapū that lead amongst us. And it's our hapū who are the sovereigns of this land and its treasures."
Minister Little said, "For me, it's a priority. I've made it my personal priority and I will continue to put my efforts and energy to achieve a result. And if it takes the time we'll take time but I will strive to make progress."
Pat Tauroa told the minister, "Come and talk to us. We in Whangaroa, will be ready next week aye Whangaroa? Come and talk to us talk to our hapu in our place."