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Hapū ratification vote in question due to corrupt database

Wednesday 12 July 2017


Hapū ratification vote in question due to corrupt database

The Ngāti Rehua Ngātiwai ki Aotea Treaty Settlement has now come into question after a report has been released highlighting “significant issues with the integrity of the [voter] database.”

Warwick Lampp of ElectioNZ, an independent elections body, who facilitated the hapū settlement ratification vote and registrations for the recent failed AGM, has issued a report that is damning of the Trust Board’s registration process. “I am of the view that the voting database is potentially compromised,” his report states.

The Aotea (Great Barrier Island)-based hapū has tousled with their mandated representatives for a number of years, with tensions rising when the Trust initialled a settlement in November of last year, largely without the knowledge of hapū members.

“We were so shocked to find out it had been signed,” says prominent kaumatua of Ngāti Rehua and Ngātiwai, Nupere Ngawaka.

“We had met with them earlier. They said they would keep us informed. Next thing we knew, it was a done deal.”

A consequent series of ratification hui (intended to gain hapū support for the settlement) saw Trustees criticised at best and abused at worst as members expressed their disapproval of the settlement itself as well as the general lack of consultation.

But even in the face of such contention, the Trust put the ratification to vote in February this year, reporting a positive outcome with a 57% vote in favour of the settlement being accepted.

Hapū members were incensed that the Trust Board would be satisfied with such a small majority – other settlement ratifications have been passed at between 84% (Te Rarawa) and 97% (Ngāti Apa). They also felt suspicious as to the validity of the results.

The ElectioNZ report now seems to support that suspicion – the database identified as corrupt in the AGM lead up was also the basis for that ratification vote. “It is difficult to be sure at this point that all potential members have been given the opportunity to vote. There is the potential that many beneficiaries could be unnecessarily disenfranchised,” the report states.

Issues with the database came to light as a group of kaumātua (some selected by the Trust Board, others by the wider hapū) met to validate the whakapapa of those attempting to be registered to vote. But the Trust Board representatives rejected 94.6% of the new registrations, and then walked out, refusing to carry out a process directed by QC Kieran Raftery, High Court-appointed Independent Chairperson for the AGM.

Hapū representative Aperahama Kerepeti-Edwards reported in an affidavit to the high Court that “the register had a large number of … people that had been moved onto the database and without validation.”

Kaumātua David Wharemate also confirmed, “I have been involved in validating registrations over a number of years for the Board right up until early this year but now I do not recognise these names.”

On June 8, Chris Finlayson, the Minister for Treaty Settlements, reported to the Māori Affairs Select Committee that the "Ngati Rehua ... situation is a bit confused there because of raruraru but hopefully that will sort itself out..."

“We think the actions of the Trust Board are corrupt, and much more than a bit of ‘raruraru’,” says Shelly Davies, communications representative for the kaumātua group.

“There are bodies in place to ensure the integrity of both Charitable Trusts and the Treaty negotiation process. “

“It’s disappointing that a group of kaumātua have to return to the High Court again and again at their own expense, when both the Minister and the Charities Commission have been made aware of significant issues.”

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