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Legal aid, registration, and Whānau, support and legal Hui

Pre-Claim blues

3.3 Legal aid, registration, and Whānau, support and legal Hui

Legal aid was applied for, the whānau granted assistance, and lodged their claim as a late entry for the Hauraki area. The claim was accepted by the Tribunal and allocated a registration number, “Wai ‘969’”.

Shortly after the registration of the claim, there were disagreements within the whānau. The whānau was accepted as a late entry into the Hauraki area claims, with the timeframe the whānau faced, the pressure was on for obtaining wider support from the other families. Before registering the claim, whānau meetings had been organised on the spur of the moment. The wider support base needed for the claim was present, but because of time constraints we had gone ahead with the mandate of only a few members of the extended whānau. In hindsight, we should have held a large Hui at which the whānau selected a team to represent the claim.

The method chosen at this point was to be a hindrance in the latter stages of the claim.

The first official whānau Hui was organised in Tauranga Moana, 16th Avenue at the house of an older sister of the author. At this meeting, almost all of the author’s immediate family were present. Of special note was the attendance of the

oldest sibling who was raised as a whaangai child to the grandparents, Mana Mita Whakatau and Kahumeria Hekapa-Netana. During the meeting, it was decided that the claim would go through as an extended whānau claim, encompassing the families of the 11 children of the grandparents, Mana Mita Whakatau and Kahumeria Hekapa-Netana.

At this Hui, the other families extended a minimal amount of support, but the majority came from the whānau in Tauranga. After this mandate Hui, the author returned to Hamilton and began organising and collating the evidence to format it into a brief. The lawyers then organised another meeting to discuss the claim budget.

At this meeting, the lawyers pointed out, that the land in question under claim was held in government hands and administered by Crown Forest Rentals Trust, and therefore the claim was eligible for funding from Crown Forest Rentals Trust.

A large proportion of the land that was under claim was a block called Te Kapowai, which under the name Coroglen State Forest was in government hands.

The timing of the whānau application for Crown Forest Rentals funding coincided with some negative publicity. The agency was being criticised and investigated about previous funding for claims organised by other claimants, the whānau were affected by the backlash of that publicity. At first the funding was declined, then later accepted, but under conditions: the money was to be handed over to the lawyers with the provision that the funding was to go toward the costs of the other claimants who were to be heard by the Tribunal the same day, as they would be hosting the Hui at their marae. They (Tamatepo) were to receive $2500 as the

author’s whānau were, but the funding was to be given as koha for staying at their marae, Te Matai Whetu. After the directive received from CFRT, the whānau was outraged that they did not seem to have a say in how they would manage any funding allocated, it was as if the whānau should lodge a claim for unjustified treatment. The option given was unanimously declined, it was agreed that some funding should be given as koha for hosting, but as none of the whānau would be staying overnight at Te Matai Whetu marae, the whānau would require the rest of the funds to meet their own costs.

The author relayed this answer to our lawyer, Kiriana Tan, and found that there would be no release of funding unless the whānau agreed to give all of the money to the other claimants (Tamatepo claimants). Once again, we conveyed this korero to the whānau and received the same response from them. The main point, once again, was that the whānau would not be staying at the marae of the other claimants. Some of the whānau were whakamaa and felt that they should not be staying in Thames as the claim was for the eastern side of Coromandel peninsula, in the Mercury Bay area. It was estimated that we would have one or two meals at the Tamatepo claimants’ marae. The whānau had people commuting from Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, and Hamilton, so the main desire was to make sure those travelling would have support rather than supporting the other claimants. Once again the request was declined, through our lawyer, Kiriana Tan.

The arguments between the CFRT representative and our lawyer became more heated with the various points mentioned above being discussed at length. At one stage, the organiser for the Crown Forest Rentals Trust funding in Wellington threatened to withdraw funding if the whānau did not agree to the terms laid out.

We decided to seek outside legal advice, as we felt the pressure from CFRT was illegal and inappropriate. When the representative for the Tamatepo claimants contacted us, it became clear that they had been informed that the whānau would be giving all their funding as Koha. At that point, we, under instruction from the rest of the whānau, made it clear to our lawyers, that if the whānau did receive any funding it would be divided and a proportion would be given as koha but the rest would remain as support for the Wai 969 claimants. We also informed the representative for the Tamatepo claimants that none of the Wai 969 claimants would be staying at Te Matai Whetu marae.

Another meeting was organised with our lawyer with a view to making some sort of progress on the matter, as time was a critical factor. It was decided that if no satisfaction was gained through the junior counsel, then the matter was to be taken up with the senior counsel, Mr Stephen Clark.

Apart from the meetings with the lawyers, there had been four other separate meetings, in Tauranga, Tokoroa, Auckland, and Hamilton. The purpose of these meetings was to gather family members so they could give evidence at the Hearing. From these meetings, four people, as well as the author, were approached to speak at the Hearing. The four were the author’s oldest brother, David Mita, who had been brought up by the grandfather Mana Mita Whakatau;

the author’s first cousin, Judy Herewini, who was living in Te Aroha at the time the grandparents were still living; the author’s older sister, Janice Tauteka, and another first cousin, Marsha Kelly, who was around the grandparents when she was a child at Matapihi in Tauranga.

The junior counsel interviewed each person to assess his or her evidence. After listening to the evidence of Janice Tauteka and Marsha Kelly, the counsel found they were vague about some details. David Mita gave most of the background information on the grandparents but he decided he would not speak at the Hearing. The whānau knew they would have a problem with this as David Mita had always been a quiet man, and even though he was recognised as the whānau rangatira, he rarely spoke publicly. He did, however, give his unconditional support, as he had on many other occasions. After studying the witnesses’

evidence, the lawyer advised that she herself, the author, and Judy Herewini would give evidence at the Hearing.

After the witness issue had been finalised, a further meeting to call for support from all the children and mokopuna of the grandparents was organised. This was to be held in Auckland.

The timing for this meeting was at a difficult time, as the author was going through financial difficulties, however the author and his immediate whānau funded it. The meeting was held at the house of a niece of the author, house in Manuwera, Auckland. This support Hui did not go well, as few of the whānau appeared; the author did manage to gather together a few nieces and nephews but the author’s brothers and sisters and cousins boycotted the meeting. The author now realised that many of the Auckland family were not supporting the claim.

Why was this the case?

A support Hui was then organised in Tauranga at the author’s older sister’s house.

This was a prime opportunity for the lawyer to also meet again with some of the whānau and to talk with Janice Tauteka again, as she was still a potential witness.

The meeting itself went very well, but after the meeting during general discussion, the lawyer once again found too many contradictions and finally decided not to use Mrs Tauteka as a witness. It was also evident on this occasion that whānau politics were now playing a part in these meetings.

The politics were obvious again when a further support meeting was organised at the house of the author’s first cousin. Marsha Kelly and Kare Kelly had given awesome support from the very beginning of the claim, and were supportive during the whole research process, when the author and lawyer arrived at this meeting they found that the author’s sister, Janice Tauteka, had cancelled the meeting at the cousin’s house and changed the venue to her house. Upon questioning the cousins, the author found that other Hui had been cancelled and whānau that had come to provide support from Huntly, Cambridge, Tokoroa, and Auckland had been turned away. The author’s sister, Janice, in Tauranga and another sister, Patricia Harrison, in Auckland, was undermining the support for the claim. Apparently, some sibling rivalry had surfaced. It seemed that not only did the whānau have to deal with funding problems but support was also being undermined by petty whānau squabbles. Only a few of the extended family saw the bigger picture.

To rescue what support was left, we had to find a way to reduce the negative influence of these two sisters, so we organised a private Hui with the oldest

brother, David Mita. This proved relatively easy at the time, as David was working in Hamilton and staying at a motel not far from the author’s house. The lawyer, Kiriana Tan, and the author met with David Mita, who once again confirmed his support for the claim. Discussion revolved around the undermining of the claim, and it was decided that David would talk with Janice, and try to sort out the whānau politics. As to the witness issue, David once again identified some of the discrepancies in the korero of the sister Janice Tauteka, and confirmed that Janice was too young to remember much about the grandparents, as was the cousin Marsha Kelly. David did point out that the cousin Judy Herewini did know the grandparents, and was not much younger than he was himself, so she was more likely to remember. David was asked again to be a witness, but he was determined that he would not stand and speak: that was always his way, so it was expected, and accepted.

After the meeting with David, the lawyer, Kiriana Tan, organised a meeting with the cousin, Judy Herewini; the author was unable to be present. The lawyer confirmed that Judy Herewini would stand at the Hearing, so it was now definite:

the witnesses would be the author, speaking first, Judy Herewini, second, and the lawyer to wrap up proceedings. Marsha Kelly, the cousin, was to be a backup speaker if needed. After the realisation that the whānau Hui had been undermined the author started to make last calls to the whānau for support: to nieces and nephews, cousins, brothers and sisters the call went out to all the whānau for final support.