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Ihumātao | Tangata Whenua vs Mana Whenua
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Ihumātao | Tangata Whenua vs Mana Whenua
Dr Rawiri Taonui

This third article on Ihumātao investigates the mana whenua mandate of tribal entities associated with the proposed Fletcher Residential housing development at Ihumatao. Interrogating this question requires understanding the traditional terminology, the historical location of interests in 1840, the support and remit of tribal structures and how any incongruities may have arisen.


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Legal Action

The New Zealand Herald has reported that three of the four trustees of the Makaurau Marae Māori Trust have asked Te Warena Taua to stand down as Chair. Taua was instrumental in negotiating a compromise that facilitated the advancement of the Fletcher proposal through the Auckland Council, Heritage New Zealand and the Environmental Court.

The Herald reports that the three trustees say they have never supported the development and that Taua has ‘acted without reference to them’ and in a manner they assumed meant ‘he was acting for the separate Te Kawerau Iwi Authority’.

The writ on behalf of Taua for the hearing scheduled for this Friday 6 September, asks that the judge compel the three dissenting trustees to support the development, be prohibited from removing Taua as chair, be removed themselves; and that Taua remain as Chair and as such ‘remain mandated to speak on behalf of Makaurau Marae’.

Fletcher Residential

The position of Fletcher Residential on mana whenua is a jumble. In 2018, a Fletcher statement said it recognised Te Ākitai Waiohua, the Te Kawerau Iwi Authority and the Makaurau Marae Māori Trust as mana whenua at Ihumatao.

More recently, in March and August of this year Steve Evans, the head of Fletcher Residential, variously named the Te Kawerau Iwi Settlement Trust, Te Kawerau Tribal Authority and the Makaurau Marae Maori Trust Board as mana whenua.

However, Fletcher’s website and another statement in April simply says the company regards Te Kawerau ā Maki as mana whenua at Ihumātao.

There are questions. Te Ākitai Waiohua is mana whenua at Pūkaki Marae not Ihumātao. Te Kawerau ā Maki are from West Auckland not Ihumātao. The Makaurau Marae Māori Trust is from Ihumātao; however, the Ihumātao community does not elect them. We might also ask if Fletcher is simply relying on Taua.


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Tangata whenua was the main pre-European term describing local people belonging to a place. Tangata whenua stood on the tūrangawaewae standing place of their ancestors, maintained ahi kā fires and as haukāinga were one with the whenua.

Mana whenua is a new term that first appeared in 1904 when Ngāti Kahungunu sought to delineate tangata whenua authority over their territories relative to the government. In 1991, the phrase entered a wider Māori parlance through Dr Cleve Barlow’s Tikanga Whaakaro analysis of mana as authority from mana ātua (gods), mana tūpuna (ancestors), mana whenua (land) and mana tangata (people).

The Crown added the concept of ‘mandated’ to the Treaty of Waitangi nomenclature through the Office of Treaty Settlements, Crown Proposals For The Settlement of Treaty of Waitangi Claims (1995) and Healing the Past, Building a Future (2004).

The idea of ‘mandated mana whenua’ in Auckland crystallised in the Local Government Auckland Council Act (2009) establishing the Auckland Independent Māori Statutory Board, and the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Deed of Settlement (2012).

For the Crown mandating is a way of ensuring that iwi authorities, negotiators, settlements and post-settlement asset management structures have the support of their communities through hui or plebiscite. When thorough, this works well. When the Crown rushes, manipulates, aggregates disparate groups or is simply incompetent the result is often an unmitigated disaster.

Tangata Whenua in the 1840s

The 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi is the default date for locating mana whenua tribal interests relative to contemporary Treaty processes.

In the 1820s, conflicts arising from an imbalance in the possession of European muskets drove many Auckland tribes to seek refuge in the Waikato. After peace was restored, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, later the first Tainui-Waikato King, led several hapū back to South Auckland in 1835.

Te Kawerau ā Maki re-occupied their homelands in the Waitākere Forest. Te Ākitai Waiohua returned to their lands at Pūkaki. Te Wherowhero’s Ngāti Māhuta hapū took residence at Ihumātao and later on Crown land at Māngere granted to Te Wherowhero as a respected mediator between Pākehā Auckland and the Waikato.Related to Te Ākitai as groups within Waiohua, Ngāti Te Ahiwaru were also resident at Ihumātao. An important Te Ahiwaru chief, Hone Pīharoa passed away at Ihumātao in 1848. In 1855, they are named as one of several groups acknowledging Te Wherowhero’s leadership. In 1858, Koroniria Tokuwaho of Te Ahiwaru opened a large gathering of tribes at Ihumātao. A ceremony confirmed Ihumātao as ‘whenua pūmau’ land in perpetuity for Te Ahiwaru. Reinforcing the importance of Ngāti Te Ahiwaru - Ngāti Māhuta, two of five meetings establishing the Kingship took place at Ihumātao between 1856 and 1858.


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The Impact of Raupatu

At the outbreak of the Pākehā War on Waikato Māori in 1863, the amalgam of Ngāti Te Ahiwaru Waiohua - Ngāti Māhuta, and Te Ākitai Waiohua fled into the Waikato. By the 1890s, they had returned and re-settled on respectively miniscule reserves at Ihumātao and Pūkaki.

To protect their interests, Te Kawerau ā Maki chose to stay in West Auckland and swear allegiance to the Crown. However, following devastating land losses and the death of their chief Te Ūtika Te Aroha in 1912, Te Kawerau began moving to live with relations in Ōrākei, Pūkaki and Ihumātao. Most were gone by 1935, a few stayed at Te Henga until the 1960s. Without minimising their dire history; they were not mana whenua at Ihumātao in 1840.

Marginalising Ihumātao

The Herald article on impending legal action said that ‘this rift [between the trustees] is yet another division in the close-knit Ihumātao community’. In fact, it is the only rift. An emerging impression is that the majority at Ihumātao, whether young or old and including the bulk of trustees on three committees, oppose the Fletcher development some of the representative structures seem to so stridently support. If this is the case, then something is seriously amiss.

In 2003, the Office of Treaty Settlements entered negotiations with Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei to secure a comprehensive settlement over central Auckland. Other Auckland tribes filed an urgent claim with the Waitangi Tribunal whose Tāmaki Makaurau Settlement Process Report (2007) said the Crown had unfairly excluded them. The report named Te Ākitai Waiohua and Te Kawerau ā Maki but overlooked Ngāti Te Ahiwaru - Ngāti Māhuta.

In 2008, Chris Finlayson, the Minister of Treaty Negotiations in the former National government, initiated a new two-step process comprising the Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Settlement on shared interests between 13 mana whenua groups, and individual mana whenua agreements covering specific claims. The Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Deed (2012) included Te Kawerau ā Maki and Te Ākitai Waiohua, but again not Ngāti Te Ahiwaru - Ngāti Māhuta.

They were left out because the mandate process was rushed and groups with significantly better resources were more prepared to engage. Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei had already received settlements. And, between 2009 and 2014, Te Kawerau ā Maki received $10.6 million in forestry rentals and a $6.5 million interest in the Riverhead Forest and other cash in the Te Kawerau Deed of Settlement. Ngāti Te Ahiwaru and Ngāti Māhuta were simply left behind.

The Crown’s failure to include them was an egregious omission with direct consequence at Ihumātao today. The oversight is more glaring given Auckland Council’s subsequent inclusion of Ngāti Te Ahiwaru in both the Independent Māori Statutory Board and the Auckland Plan 2050.

Mana and Mandates

The reciprocity of rangatiratanga is central to understanding the mana and mandates of tribal rūnanga, trusts, authorities and committees. Communities are ‘tira’ (groups) that rely on the leadership of leaders, and leaders the ‘ranga’ (binding) that unites the support of the community. Whatever structures are chosen, there must be clear guidelines for the election, appointment and succession of leaders. Only then do they carry the mandate of the people to whom they are accountable. Where leaders elect each other, they do not have clear mandates, are not easily held to account and there is a risk they will act on their own volition.

Mandates are never easy to decipher. However, helpful resources include, the Te Puni Kōkiri - Ministry of Māori Development register of mandated iwi, the Companies Office database of trusts and societies, and deeds of mandate to negotiate, agreements in principle and deeds of settlement available at

Te Kawerau ā Maki

The Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority is a charitable trust mandated in two hui in 2009 to negotiate their Treaty claims and represent the aspirations of Te Kawerau descendants.

The Te Kawerau Deed of Settlement (2014) established a new post-settlement iwi authority, the Te Kawerau ā Maki Settlement Trust to manage post-settlement assets and represent the tribe on environmental matters. In accordance with Crown policies there are regular elections and a succession system. On available information, it appears that the Settlement Trust is the new mandated entity.

The Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority remains in place managing ‘charitable affairs’. There are questions about how it came to represent mana whenua at Ihumātao.

Firstly, the Te Kawerau Deed of Settlement settled claims in the Waitākere Forest, Manukau Heads and West Auckland. It did not settle the 1860s confiscation at Ihumātao. Moreover, the Te Puni Kōkiri-Ministry of Māori Development register of mana whenua groups says Te Kawerau is based at Te Henga in the Waitākere area and are without a marae. That is, Makaurau Marae is not strictly their 1800s heritage marae. Further, the Deed of Settlement includes building a new marae at Te Onekiritea Point in Hobsonville, not Ihumātao. These matters reflect that Te Kawerau were not at Ihumātao until well into the 1900s.

Other than representing persons of Te Kawerau descent, the mandate of the Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority, which more properly might lie with the Te Kawerau ā Maki Settlement Trust, either way does not confer a suzerainty to speak on behalf of the Makaurau marae community, Ngāti Te Ahiwaru - Ngāti Māhuta, or the land in dispute at Ihumātao.

This does not mean that Te Kawerau should not have a say. Many of their descendants live at Ihumātao; there is shared ancestry. Nevertheless, a clearer mandate, including an accord recognising Ngāti Te Ahiwaru’s leadership is required. If not, then bodies such as Te Rūnanga o Ngāpuhi with several thousand descendants living in Auckland could register as Auckland mana whenua.

So how has Te Kawerau come to represent Ihumātao? By excluding Te Ahiwaru from the Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Settlement, the former National government generated an impression that Te Kawerau were the principal iwi at Ihumātao. This impression was reinforced when, without a marae of their own, Te Kawerau and the Crown signed their settlement at Makaurau marae in 2014. From then onwards, the government, local bodies, the media and Fletcher Residential simply assumed they were.

Ngāti Te Ahiwaru Waiohua - Ngāti Māhuta

Fletcher Residential’s reliance upon the Makaurau Marae Māori Trust is also open to question. Makaurau Marae sits within Ihumātao Village - Te Puketāpapa papakāinga. Te Puni Kōkiri does not list any mandated bodies for Ngāti Te Ahiwaru meaning none have been through a formal process.

There are three committees. The Charter of the Makaurau Marae Reservation Trust established in 1966, tasks the trust with administering reserved land and the Makaurau marae on behalf of the descendants of Ngāti Te Ahiwaru - Ngāti Māhuta. The pre-Treaty settlement date reinforces that Ngāti Te Ahiwaru - Ngāti Māhuta are the original mana whenua. Consistent with the history, the Charter does not mention Te Kawerau ā Maki.

Clear guidelines for the election of descendant and general trustees meet the criteria for mandating representatives. The marae is managed through a subsidiary Makaurau Marae Committee which through monthly meetings is the main hub of the enfranchised tangata whenua community. The Charter does not include terms for external representation.


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The third committee, the centre of the current dispute, the Makaurau Marae Māori Trust was established in 2004. The aims are to promote the broad aspirations of Ngāti Te Ahiwaru and represent their interests on the environment. These mirror those of other iwi groups. However, the trustees are self-appointed there being no process for election and therefore no transparent test that the trust represents or is accountable to the community. The Trust can appoint up to 12 trustees. Currently there are just four, which also narrows and restricts representativeness.

In summary, the Reservation Trust has the right structure and is clearly connected to the people but lacks a clear representative external remit. The Māori Trust has the right remit but is self-appointed, un-elected and therefore lacks a transparent mandate. The remit of the Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority appears to over-reach because Te Kawerau were not at Ihumātao until well into the 1900s. A new mandate is required.

Long serving stalwart, Taua became chair of the Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority in 2008, the Makaurau Marae Māori Trust in 2013, and the Te Kawerau Settlement Trust in 2014. One person chairing three committees across three iwi/hapū groups on one marae is unprecedented and unwise, particularly where resource disparities exist. There is further risk that without clear electoral processes trustees or chairs act upon their own volition.

The Crown, Council and Courts

The combined incompetence of the Crown, Council and the courts has undermined Ngāti Te Ahiwaru - Ngāti Māhuta. Had the former National government included them in the Tāmaki Collective settlement process the current situation may well have been avoided. An appropriately mandated body would also have been involved in an individual settlement, including the original confiscation at Ihumātao, and therefore had opportunity to initiate a solution or be involved in the Fletcher proposal from the outset. If Auckland Council had checked mandates properly, then the process approving the development may also have ended differently. Heritage New Zealand and the Environment Court incompetently overlooked verifying mandates in crucial hearings in 2017 and 2018.

There is also new risk. The Te Ākitai Waiohua Iwi Authority based at Pūkaki marae, is mandated to negotiate a settlement with the Crown. The Te Ākitai Waiohua Agreement in Principle includes the matter of ‘confiscation’. If this includes the confiscation at Ihumātao then another injustice will occur by excluding Ngāti Te Ahiwaru - Ngāti Māhuta. If it does not include the Ihumātao confiscation, then the confiscation will remain unaddressed; either way there is no justice.


In 2017, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) questioned how adequately government processes for consulting and obtaining the support of Māori conformed with the Treaty of Waitangi, the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards. UNCERD stipulated the need to ‘obtain the free and informed consent of Maori before approving projects affecting the development of their traditional lands’.

In 1835, Kīngi Pōtatau Te Wherowhero led the people back to Ihumātao. In 2019, his descendant Kīngi Tūheitia Paki Pōtatau Te Wherowhero VII is mediating a resolution. This is appropriate. Over the course of 156 years since the events of 1863 the Crown has only learned to confiscate Māori land in new ways.

Dr Rawiri Taonui CertPh, BA, MA (Hons1), GradDipBus, PhD
Director | Writer | Adviser

Copyright © 2019, UMA Broadcasting Ltd:

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