Cultural expert: Legacy behind King’s Auckland claim

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Nga mihi ki a koe
Ngati Whatua cultural expert, Joe Pihema, believes the Maori King's claim for Auckland is driven in part by legacy. Photo: Facebooka

A leading Maori historian and cultural expert believes that legacy and ill-health are behind the Maori King’s announcement that Tainui wish to make a claim for the wider Auckland region.

King Tuheitia Paki told a gathering at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia during the annual Koroneihana (Coronation) celebrations, which was attended by Prime Minister John Key, that the claim “must be done”.

The claim will include the wider Auckland region, extending north to Mahurangi, down towards the Firth of Thames, and across from the Manukau Harbour to Piha.

Ngati Whatua cultural expert Joe Pihema says the claim announcement has two major driving factors.

Mr Pihema says that “looking at the timing of the celebrations”, the King would have been advised to make the announcement with a large number of media present. With the “hope of getting more gravitas and more mana around the claims that are currently going through in Tamaki (Auckland).”

Mr Pihema adds that “Tainui do have a strong attachment, historically and present, to areas of Tamaki but also wish to get a stronger economic foothold not only in South Auckland but the wider region.”

Mr Pihema believes another reason behind the claim was the health of King Tuheitia. Also the “raruraru (trouble) that has been attached to the last seven years of his reign”,  and “his wanting to leave something memorable for his people”, making it more of statement in relation to the King’s legacy.

The King was noticeably absent for a significant part of the Koroneihana celebrations as concerns grow around his health challenges, including diabetes.

Mr Pihema believes that the claim is ill-advised, as “Tamaki Makaurau is so tied up and tangled in a myriad of claims” that have either already been completed or are currently before the Crown. He believes that because of this, no one iwi will ever have a universal claim to the Auckland region.

Nga Puhi leader David Rankin says plans were “well under way” for a similar Nga Puhi claim. He notes that when the Crown settled with Ngati Whatua in Auckland, it ignored Nga Puhi, which he says was a breach of the Treaty.

But Mr Pihema believes Mr Rankin, if anything, is “stirring the pot” and that Nga Puhi has even less of a claim to Tamaki. “Bearing in mind that Orakei carry a very strong Tainui element through whakapapa (genealogy) and therefore Tainui are represented in our people,” says Mr Pihema.

He adds: “Nga Puhi needs to focus on their own current claims up in Nga Puhi and to focus on getting Tuhoronuku together.”

Through these claim announcements, Mr Pihema believes that both Tainui and Nga Puhi have identified “perceived weakness” in Ngati Whatua Orakei, and provide an opportunity for the two iwi to lay claim to the Auckland area.

Mr Pihema believes that Ngati Whatua Orakei need to “come together as a hapu and reinvigorate ourselves”, with leaders needing to clarify how the Ngati Whatua mana and name is prominent within Auckland – both culturally and economically.

Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, has agreed to hear Tainui’s claims, but has yet to make a comment.

Joe Pihema has also written an opinion piece on the Tainui claim in the New Zealand Herald.