A reader writes in:
It has largely escaped national media attention – and perhaps that is a good thing – but here in ChCh, Ngai Tahu politics is the talk of the town.
Ngai Tahu has always done very well by staying focused, disciplined and unified under the leadership of Sir Mark Solomon (and Tipene O’Reagan at the figurehead level).
Right now, that unity is under massive pressure and behind the scenes is fractured. You kind of have to give them credit for keeping a lid on the worst of it.
There has been plenty reported about Lisa Tumahai and Arihia Bennett in the media. Among most Runanga attention is now being focused on potential candidates that would unify the iwi and transcend the recent unpleasantness. NgaiTahu probably have a bit to learn from the National Party about the transition of leadership, to be honest.
I know of two candidates that have been approached: Quintin Hix (Arowhenua Runanga) and Nuk Korako (from both the Rapaki and Tuahuriri Runanga).
Hix is a long-serving Runanga reo and respected lawyer from Timaru and would likely jump at the chance to serve as Kaiwhakahaere. His appointment would get the Iwi past a lot of bitterness and innuendo flying around. He is widely admired and trusted. Youngish, too. He could serve for many years.
Korako has earned a lot of respect as a previous board member of Ngai Tahu Investment Ltd and his current role as Chair of the Maori Affairs Select Committee. Coming from two Runanga helps on the unity front, especially because Tuahuriri is really ground-zero for Ngai Tahu. He has less to gain from the appointment, though, as he has stepped away from Iwi affairs in recent years and is doing pretty well in National politics. His appointment would be interesting, because resigning his seat in parliament would have a spillover effect on cabinet and select committee appointments. He must be weighing up his future in each avenue. Either in parliament or in Ngai Tahu, his next role would surely be his last before retirement?
The Iwi has an acting Kaiwhakahaere and they hoped to have a replacement before xmas, but the in-fighting looks to carry on over the summer – almost as bad as Labour factionalism and summer BBQs!!
Ngai Tahu is now one of the largest commercial presences in the South Island. They have shown what you can do with a settlement, by moving past grievance mode. It will be interesting to see who becomes their new leader, and what impact there is from this.