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Iwi unhappy over Mangawhai forestry sale


marilyn shearer-145The recent mooted sale of the Mangawhai South forest area, around 750 hectares, by the Board of the Ngati Manuhiri Settlement Trust has earned the ire of local Iwi through lack of consultation with the owners.

The Ngati Manuhiri Settlement Trust (NMST) trustees consisting of Marilyn Shearer, John Paki (chairman), Ringi Brown and CEO Terrence Hohneck, negotiated and entered into a joint-venture agreement with developer John Darby. The trees have minimal value but the plan was to subdivide the land into some residential and some commercial lots.

However when a ‘final’ agreement was signed on May 29, Ms Shearer refused to sign on the grounds no due diligence had been carried out and there had been no consultation with Iwi.

“We need to protect what has been given by the Crown,” said Ms Shearer. “Though the sale may well go ahead, subject to any cross-claims, there must be full and open transparency, reports from ecologists, the environmental groups and land valuations.”

Since the signings two hui had been held on the matter, one at Omaha Marae and one at Rotorua to inform interested owner parties. However the Middle Mahurangi group of largely Aucklanders are now protesting as they have not had the opportunity to air their views.

Some of the 900 registered members in Ngati Manuhiri and a substantial number of descendants demanded a clear business report prior to agreeing to the Joint Venture, with many considering that the Trustees lack significant skills, transparency, accountability and integrity to handle negotiations without Iwi input.

At the recent AGM Ms Shearer was replaced as Chair by Paki but still remains a trustee.

Ngati Manuhiri legal representatives DLA Phillips Fox had also raised some concerns regarding transparency of the transaction and asked for a concise summary of last three years trading at the hui, including matters relating to the sale of that particular block of land.

Said Marilyn Shearer: “As Trustees, we are responsible and accountable, in legal terms. In order to uphold the mana and integrity of our settlement trust, we must continue to improve and update the old ways of running our back office. We want a new wave of transparency and accountability. Our members demand it! And I am proud to say we have some bright people in our iwi.”

When asked to comment, the Chairman of Omaha Marae Roi McCabe stated that he was extremely concerned that Mr Paki, Mr Brown and Mr Hohneck had entered into an agreement for the sale of the Mangawhai South Forest area without consultation with the owners. The owners of the land had been unaware that a Joint Venture deal had been signed initially around 2013. He also stated that he had written to J Darby inviting him to meet Ngati Manuhiri before the Joint Venture was signed but received no response. He also voiced his concerns about the legal implications of selling land without consulting the owners.

NMST administers Iwi assets but does not own them. Mr McCabe further commented that the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) and Te Puni Kokiri had been contacted about the Iwi concerns but, to date, no response had been received. He further stated that there was significant wahi tapu in the area and there has been no indication from the NMST that these were going to be protected. To date, the contract has not been shown to the people.
Historic perspective of Te Arai and Te Mangawhai

Te Arai is named after the prominent rocky feature known to as Te Arai-o-Tahuhu, the landing place of the waka Moe Kakara of the chief Tahuhunui-a-rangi who erected an altar to the gods. It formed part of the sale of the Te Mangawhai block which included part of Te Arai. In the Kaipara minute books, Anaru Wi Apo, a Rangatira from Otamatea stated that the two main chiefs of that time who sold the land were Te Kiri Patuparaoa and Arama Karaka Haututu. After the arrival of the British Government in 1840 the people returned to their lands and Ngati Manuhiri re-established Ahikaroa in the area of Te Arai and Te Mangawhai by placing the descendants of Nga Whetu on the land.

George Graham records the history of this tuahu which now rests in the vicinity of the tea kiosk at Cornwall Park, Auckland. It has a brief inscription referring to it as a ‘Kumara god’ of the Waiohua tribe. It appears that Sir John Campbell had the stone removed to Cornwall Park. Graham records that in 1909 he secured a definite account of this stone from the Kaipara chiefs assembled at a festival at Paremoremo. At the assembly he noted down the speech made by Eru Maihi, a Ngati-Whatua chief of high rank who stated:

“Now let me speak of one other of our ancestral canoes, Moe-kakara. Tahuhu was the chief. He landed near Te Arai, so-called because Tahuhu set up a temporary shelter (Arai). He there also set up this stone found there as a Tuahu (altar), and made the ceremonial offerings to the spirits of the land, so as to prevent offending them, as also to safeguard his folk against the witchcraft of the people of Kupe and Toi, who already lived thereabouts.”

This stone was known as Te Toka-tu-whenua and became an uruuruwhenua (a place of offerings and ceremonies). Tahuhu came to Tamaki, and lived for some time at Otahuhu. His descendants were the Ngai Tahuhu. Tahuhu was killed by witchcraft at the pa at Mount Richmond, Otahuhu, and he was buried at Te Arai around 1375.

Graham went on to comment that Tahuhu’s great-grandson attacked the Wai-o-hua around 1475 in revenge. This was followed by the attack on the Kawerau and Ngati-Rua-ngaio of Te Arai by the Wai-o-hua. It was then that this stone was taken from Te Arai to Tamaki and set up in several places. Roi McCabe comments that this tuahu should be returned to its place of origin.

McCabe also comments that on the southern part of Te Arai there are other significant wahi tapu, referred to as the ‘keria of Wera,’ a chief of the Ngati Manuhiri after whom the block of land now known as Waikeria-a-wera is named. This wahi tapu is near the Pa Maioro of Te Wera known as Te

Whetumakuru. The wahi tapu of Tahuhu is also in that vicinity. He states that with the loss of this land the history and deeds of the Tupuna will eventually be forgotten and access to the land of the Tupuna denied to their people.

INTEGRITY: There must be full and open transparency says trustee Marilyn Shearer.
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