I received today the April Panui from Te Atiawa updating iwi members of recent progress made in relation to our negotiations with the Crown. Not that it was much of an update – for reasons unknown, the Iwi Authority (“TAIA”) has decided to keep most of the documentation and information about the negotiations confidential. Now, I can understand the need for confidentiality in some areas – such as the specific land blocks ear-marked for return, or commercial redress. But what really annoys me is that TAIA is keeping confidential an Iwi Aspirations document that has been provided to the Crown. According to TAIA, this document discusses the following:
- Who we are (whakapapa);
- Our history (especially the land wars);
- The impact of the land wars and raupatu; and
- Our Aspirations
Last year TAIA provided a questionnaire canvassing members of Te Atiawa about their aspirations for the iwi moving forward. These views were then fed back to TAIA who created the aspirations document. At this stage, best practice would dictate that the iwi had an opportunity to review the aspirations document and provide comment and approval. To do so allows all members to feel a part of the iwi and see where the iwi is headed. It is vitally important that the iwi is united under a common vision before engaging with the Crown. TAIA did not adopt such an approach. The Aspirations Document was presented to the Crown without being seen by the iwi community.
TAIA have an opportunity to partially remedy their failings in this respect. The aspirations document should be released immediately to iwi members to consider and provide feedback on. A revised edition can then be presented to the Government. We will only heal as an iwi when everyone within our iwi is included in all stages of the settlement process. It should not be forgotten that the last attempt to settle our historical Treaty of Waitangi claims in 1999 failed because iwi leaders failed to adequately include the iwi in the settlement process. Let’s not repeat the failures of the past.
(Post edited following clarification and comments by TAIA chair, Wikitoria Keenan)