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These are sad times for the people of Waikato-Tainui

These are sad times for the people of Waikato-Tainui

by Tom Roa

The decision by King Tuheitia earlier this week to sack the chairperson of Te Kauhanganui o Waikato-Tainui, Tania Martin, was extremely ill-advised and has the potential to cause further acute embarassment not just to the King, and the Kīngitanga, but more, to Māoridom.

Te Kauhanganui o Waikato-Tainui is an Incorporated Society which has a constitution and rules.

It was established as the democratic representative body for the people of Waikato-Tainui, to provide sound governance to manage the tribe’s asset and resources following the settlement of the tribe’s land claims in 1995.

Te Kauhanganui, which is made up of 3 representatives (a kaumatua, marae and rangatahi spokespersons From each of the tribe's 68 marae) was established by King Tuheitia’s late uncle, Sir Robert Mahuta.

Sir Robert, who led the settlement of Waikato-Tainui land claims, was a visionary who understood the need to develop systems, structures and rules to provide the governance required to manage the tribe's $170 million land settlement assets and cash.

The decision to establish a Tribal Parliament to manage these affairs was also driven by an understanding for the need to always protect the Kingitanga – to ensure it remained separate from more common matters. It also ensured that the Head of the Kāhui Ariki, as the Head of the Kingitanga was not involved in the pressures that occur for any entity when it moves from managing a moderate financial base, to one controlling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Head of the Kāhui Ariki has but one representative on tribal governance matters: the Kahui Ariki representative. This person, the only one not elected by the people, sits on the tribe’s 11 member executive – Te Arataura, whose remaining 10 members are elected from within Te Kauhanganui members every three years.

The only person the King may remove in accord with the Rules of Te Kauhanganui is his representative. This position is currently filled by Toll Tranzlink Group General Manager, Greg Miller. In a recent release King Tuheitia appointed Mr Miller, who is the only non-tribal member involved in either Te Arataura or Te Kauhanganui, as interim chairperson to replace Mrs Martin. This action is in breach of the constitution and the rules.

The result is that now Waikato-Tainui are in a constitutional crisis. This is a crisis in LAW, the 'ture' of which the King’s advisors are either ignorant, or have chosen to ignore.

It is also sad that the King’s advisors are either ignorant of or have chosen to ignore the strictures of LORE, or 'tikanga'.

Our tribal traditions and ways are guided by tongikura, whakatauki, and pepeha which underpin our 'tikanga'. Waikato-Tainui does not exist if we abandon our tikanga.

These tikanga have been handed down through the generations, and in the present instance we must be guided by the words of King Tuheitia’s ancestor Potatau, the first Maori King. At his inauguration he instructed his people ' Kia mau ki te Ture, te Whakapono, me te Aroha.' - Hold fast to the Law, to the Faith, and to Love.

This is a sorry state of affairs for the Waikato-Tainui people. We must ensure our King and our rules are protected. There has been precedence in other jurisdictions, that show a constructive way forward, when there is such a crisis in play.

There must be fresh elections, and they must be held soon.

This is not to support recent ill-advised actions. Because they are just that. It is to allow the people to demonstrate very clearly who they want to make decisions on resources that will provide for this and future generations.

With Love; in Faith; and holding fast to the Law - 'kia tau te rangimarie' - let there be peace.


Tom Roa is the former chairman of the Waikato-Tainui Parlimanent, Te Kauhanganui, and a former member of the Executive Board - Te Arataura. He is a Senior Lecturer at Waikato University and has been blessed with the opportunity to study and become proficient in knowledge of Waikato-Tainui history and whakapapa, for which he has great passion.

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