Extortion allegations a spanner in the works for treaty negotiations - Shane Jones

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It must be serious if they won't talk about it.

That's the word from the Regional Development Minister who's furious that his efforts to grow the region's economy may be undermined.

Gravel royalties have allegedly been demanded from roading contractors in Opotiki, accompanied by threats of violence or damage.

Police are investigating and the regional council has stopped gravel extraction in the meantime.

Shane Jones says it's worrying if contractors won't talk about it.

“The contracting industry ordinarily comprises of fairly robust individuals. It must be a hassle if they don't want to talk about it.

"I've offered to go up to Opotiki to hold a meeting with contractors and with Whakatohea."

The hapu which has demanded payments says it wants to upgrade its marae and give people better lives.

The Minister believes it's a deliberate move to undermine the drawn-out negotiations.

"I think it's incredibly disappointing the Waitangi Tribunal process I'm told has broadened.

"Whakatohea had a Treaty settlement on the table on the table since 1997 - so it's been there for 20 years."

Sam Gardner