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The 80 year-old Ngapuhi iwi kuia, Titewhai Harawira, says now is the time for the country's largest Maori tribe to settle its claim with the Crown to redress grievances under the Treaty of Waitangi.
In the latest sign that the 125,000-strong iwi may settle ahead of this year's general election, Harawira issued a two-page statement under the letterhead of Tuhornuku, the independent authority mandated to settle the claims after years of friction that have not fully subsided between competing elements of the tribe.
While media reports on Waitangi Day last month put a figure of $500 million on Ngapuhi's ambitions for settlement, tribal sources have indicated a sum of around half that size is more realistically expected.
Labour MP and Ngapuhi member Shane Jones told the National Business Review on Feb. 24 that he believed a figure "in the vicinity" of $250 million was necessary "if you are going to deal with it adequately."
He described the half billion dollar figure as "getting out into the universe somewhere near the planet Uranus."
In today's statement, Harawira says "the only thing that will stop us progressing is ourselves."
The mother of Hone Harawira, the only sitting MP for the left-wing Mana Party who jealously guards her role as the Prime Minister's escort on the Waitangi marae at the annual Waitangi Day celebrations, said the next step for Ngapuhi was "to agree on our terms of negotiations, including how we're going to treat each other while on this journey."
No negotiating mandate had been sought ahead of last year's historic Waitangi Tribunal hearings on Ngapuhi's extensive claims against the Crown, but it was possible to move forward now that the hearings was completed and ahead of the tribunal's findings.