Members of the Koutu Nui on the last day of their annual general meeting in June this year. 21061727
Two matters of concern stood out when members of the Koutu Nui reviewed the past year at their
Recent media reports said that the House of Ariki AGM
in October 2022 agreed to supersede the Land Court in relation to disputes over
title-holders, by repealing the relevant section of the Cook Islands Act 1915
and allowing House of Ariki to make decisions with regard to arikititles.
However, the Koutu
Nui believes that it is up to the kopu
ariki to decide who holds the arikititle.
Recognising that Cook Islands society has evolved so
that violence under customary law as a way to settle disputes is no longer
acceptable, the Koutu Nui supports
mediation in instances where the kopu
ariki are unable to agree.
Under mediation, the disputing parties agree on who
the mediator should be, usually a person who has had training and experience in
the law and conducting negotiations. In order to achieve fairness, a neutral
mediator would be preferred. As part of the mediation process, parties agree to
be bound by the recommendations of the mediator, resulting in fairer dispute
Koutu Nui members are concerned that simply shifting
decision-making on ariki titles
to the House of Ariki would result in decisions affected by personal
preferences or benefits for the decision-maker, together with lack of knowledge
about the genealogy and history of which family branch previously held the taoanga (title).
For all islands (except Mangaia, Mitiaro and Pukapuka)
the information recording the geneology and history of the ariki titles was obtained under oath
and was written up in a Block File at the Land Court records, during the Land
Court investigations in the period 1901-1910.
The Koutu Nui
proposes that free, prior, informed consent should be required before
making any change to legislation or administrative measures that may affect matakeinanga (clan members). 1
A Parliamentary Select Committee would provide a suitable forum for ensuring
free, prior, informed consent.
The Koutu Nui
further believes that it would be preferable for the House of Ariki to
give the Land Court judges the guidance they have asked for, that is
documentation of what is akonoanga
maori (maori custom) for
each of the taoanga maori (Maori titles). This House of Ariki Runanga Tango Enua project
started in 2021 with the aim of documenting akonoanga maori and it should be a priority as part of
Now that the House of Ariki has shifted under the
administration of Ministry of Cultural Development (Tauranga Vananga), funding for that project has been approved under
Conservation International through the GEF Inclusive Conservation Initiative to support the leadership
of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in stewarding land, water, and
is for a Parliamentary Select Committee to use the finalized draft policy as a
basis so that any interested person who is bound by that Act could make
comments and/or suggested remedies.
In the New Year, members of the Koutu
Nui further ask for the support of the House of Ariki for the draft
policy and their call for a Parliamentary Select Committee to review the whole
of the Cook Islands Act 2015, and to work together to achieve the Runanga Tango Enua project, which
should assist in dispute settlement.
President of the Koutu Nui, Paroro Mataiapo Rongo Preston wishes everyone all
the best for the holiday season.
1.In the United Nations, Cook Islands still comes
under New Zealand, which in 2010 signed up for theUN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous
Article 19of that Declaration says that:
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples
concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain
their free, prior and informed consentbefore adopting and implementing legislative or administrative
measures that may affect them.
Imogen P. Ingram
Nui Co-Secretary & Treasurer
Te Tuhi Kelly on 29/12/2022
And if they still can't agree, what then? More mediation and meanwhile the responsibilities accorded the title languishes. More importantly as long as the shackels of the House of Ariki Act are still in place, Govt will interfere, especially when it comes to a view Govt does not accept. The HoA Act is a recipe for continuing welfare status, self-determination is a myth whilst the Act hovers over your heads. That's what you should be focusing on, self-determination, self-empowerment and not dependent on Govt for an annual handout money as you currently are. You balk and Govt walks by threatening to withhold your annual payment, as has happened in the past.