Waitangi Tribunal at Levin Events Centre 2015

The Waitangi Tribunal in our region

According to the Waitangi Tribunal website :

The Waitangi Tribunal is a standing commission of inquiry. The tribunal makes recommendations on claims brought by Māori relating to legislation, policies, actions or omissions of the Crown that are alleged to breach the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi or in Maori, Te Tiriti o Waitangi 1840.

The Te Reo Maori version, which is quite different to the English version, as English then was itself quite different to what it is today, is the document that was signed by all of the Maori Rangatira available to sign at the time. Different Maori versions were signed around the Country as Hobson set about the task of establishing Crown Maori relationships in 1840 nationwide.

In this region the document is referred to as the Cook Strait Sheet which included some notable and not so notable or recognisable signatories for Maori. Henry Williams and Octavius Hadfield were assigned the task in 1840 by then Consul Hobson capturing signatories in northern Te Waipounamu, Te Tai Ihu and Te Tai Tapu and southern Ahi No Maui  Poneke, Papanui, Kapiti Takutai as far north as the Whanganui or Te Waka a Maui and Te Ika a Maui for the South and North Island Maori populations respectively at the time.

Te Tiriti is without compare in international treaties and is seen by many noteworthy scholars as best described as a ‘treaty of protection’ guaranteed Maori. Without question a fundamental constitutional document of the ‘unwritten constitution’ of New Zealand and somewhat overshadowed by early colonial law impacting all New Zealanders. This is without question one of the key grievances that are well founded by claimants to the tribunal.

The other serious problem for the tribunal is the introduction of the Native Land Court in 1864 and use of legal principles that are contradictory to the English law guaranteed protection to Maori by Te Tiriti o Waitangi 1840.

Maori were not officially acknowledged as Crown subjects in law until the introduction of Native Rights Act 1865.

One may ask, why a treaty? That answer is very simple.

Preceding the treaty was a Crown Colonial Office acknowledged declaration of independence on record as He Wakaputunga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tereni 1835 signed by various Rangatira including a few south of Ruapehu. A fact not well known. The declaration was promulgated  or simply put, registered in the New South Wales gazette at the time. New Zealand at that time was considered to be part of the New South Wales colony of ‘New Munster’ now Australia by the English Crown.

This is where the frailties of law principles long established in the ‘imported’ English law for those considered to be Crown subjects is ‘exposed’.

He Whakaputunga falls outside ‘by hook or frankly by crook’ New Zealand legislation which was by New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 was later given effect, not from 1835 and the earlier declaration but from February 1840 some five years after the declaration had already been acknowledged by the English Crown or precisely when Governor Hobson left New South Wales bound for New Zealand and to settle on an international treaty between two distinct nations in February 1840.

In defensive argument during tribunal hearings, the Crown Lawyers generally rely on, ‘what were the circumstances prevailing at the time’ when negotiations for land purchases, with respect to the treaty were made.

Yes the Crown did in fact know very well about both the declaration of independence in 1835 and the requirements of the treaty in 1840 during negotiations to buy land from Maori which gained momentum rapidly following legislation to introduce the Native Land Court in 1864.

From around 1840 the New Zealand Company under Captain Edward G Wakefield began conveying large numbers of new migrants to New Zealand to start a new life which escalated a myriad of problems Maori were confronting at the time.

One of the biggest problems for the Tangata Whenua was the fatal impact of contagious disease as interaction with new migrants intensified.

Needless to say the impact of influenza and tuberculosis was very severe spanning decades not only reducing Maori numbers significantly but affecting subsequent generations in ways not often given due consideration.

Role of the Waitangi Tribunal.

The tribunal has over the years clarified treaty principle breaches in some very good inquiries. The role of the Tribunal is set out in section 5 of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 and includes:

  • inquiring into and making recommendations on well-founded claims
  • examining and reporting on proposed legislation, if it is referred to the Tribunal by the House of Representatives or a Minister of the Crown
  • making recommendations or determinations about certain Crown forest land, railways land, state-owned enterprise land, and land transferred to educational institutions.

The Hautonga Society Incorporated has been active in supporting claims Wai 623, 624 and 1490 filed by founding member Mrs Ada Tatana dating back to 1996. The hearings for MuaUpoko claimants began in Levin or Taitoko on the shores of Roto Horowhenua in October 2015 as part of the Wai 2200 District Inquiry. The focus of the two and a half week hearings was on the Horowhenua Block award to Muaupoko of 52,000 acres in 1873. The  tribe was under the ‘stewardship’ or Kaitiake of two very prominent Rangatira at the time namely Major Keepa te Rangihiwinui whose father, Tanguru was Muaupoko and Kawana Hunia son of Te Hakeke of Whanganui whose mother was Muaupoko.

Te Rangihiwinui;s mother Rereomaki is said to be one of very few women to have signed however our research indicates that there were in fact numerous Wahine Rangatira in this region that actually signed Te Tiriti but were not identified until recently.

The interesting feature of the Horowhenua Block hearings is the fact that Maori were not permitted to form a trust over their own lands. Te Rangihiwnui in particular was drawn into years of protracted court hearings at immense cost (including land in lieu) to essentially clarify his position as trustee for the tribe not the sole owner of the entire 52,000 acre Horowhenua Block as prescribed by the title. A mechanism used by the Crown to individualise the land into seperate partitions from which buy ups by settlers afterward proved a fait accompli for the tribe and its community structure.

An initial ‘Horowhenua: Muaupoko Priority Report’ was published in 2017.

Since then Hautonga Marae has hosted numerous Hui regarding the claims, report findings and preparing for future hearings as inquiry extends interests beyond Horowhenua Block.

You can obtain a copy of the ‘Horowhenua Block ‘ report from this link

Porirua ki Manawatu Inquiry District Map. Source Waitangi Tribunal

Distrcit Map Wai 2200 Inquiry

Hearings for Te Ati Awa/Ngati Awa claimants as tangata heke at Waikanae have concluded and a report is still forthcoming as at writing this post. Currently Raukawa claims as tangata heke are being heard.

Ngati Toa who under the leadership of Te Rauparaha and his nephew Te Rangihaeta came south to the Kapiti Takutai  from Kawhia around 1820 followed by Raukawa under Te Whatanui about one year later have already been through and settled treaty grievances with the Crown.

The tribunal hearings process is a long drawn out affair and can take many years to reach agreement and settlement with claimants.

The costs can also be immense but thankfully most claimants are afforded legal representation by legal aid services in return for their ‘tangata whenua’ experience and or tribal knowledge as part of the commission of inquiry process.

One particular grievance on point is the confiscation of a huge block (Block 12) of the Horowhenua Block to pay for the commission of inquiry in 1896, which was not favoured by Muaupoko in any event.

The following video attachment is a pretty good assessment of the legal implications of the treaty and the knowledge or lack of it by ordinary New Zealanders.

More to follow.

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