Monday, December 19, 2005

Tane Mahuta gets older waiting for settlement

In the Court of Appeal's groundbreaking 1987 judgment Maori Council state owned enterprises case, Justice Cook described a formula for dealing with treaty issues.

"A broad, unquibbling and practical interpretation is demanded."

When those words were written, the people of Te Roroa had already filed a claim for their lands in and around Waipoua Forest north of Dargaville. Their experience with the Crown's treaty settlement machinery has been anything but broad, unquibbling and practical.

This weekend the 3000-strong Te Roroa finally settled their claim, more than 13 years since the Waitangi Tribunal released its Te Roroa Report, which found the Crown had acted unfairly when it purchased land from Te Roroa and that it had failed to make proper provision for reserves. The Tribunal also found that the Crown had allowed Te Roroa's taonga to be violated and that it had denied Te Roroa the benefits of development enjoyed by other New Zealanders.

The Tribunal recommended that all the land that should have been set aside from the Crown purchases of the Maunganui, Waipoua, Waimamaku, and Wairau lands be returned to Te Roroa.

The settlement returns some of the sacred sites Te Roroa sought, but falls far short of restoring its economic base. The hapu must go into debt to buy farms which the Crown bought because they contained some of main wahi tapu.

"There will be no dividends for this generation," says claimant negotiator Alec Nathan, who persisted through nine teams of Crown negotiators or agents and several changes of government.

The Office of Treaty Settlements and its overseeing ministers should hang their heads in shame over what they have put Te Roroa through, and the miserly settlement they finally doled out.

The case was so clear cut the parameters for settlement were laid out in 1942 by Judge Acheson.

There was a firestorm of contrived outrage when the Waitangi Tribunal led by Judge Andrew Spencer reiterated Acheson"s finding that "the circumstances of this case ... cry aloud for redress for the natives. The two reserves (Manuwhetai and Whangaiariki) are theirs and should be returned to them, no matter what cost to the Crown this may involve".

Doug Graham passed a law preventing the Waitangi Tribunal from ever again making recommendations covering private land. Since Graham's amendment also defined land held by local bodies as private (even though they may have acquired and held that land through use or abuse of powers delegated from the Cerown), that particular move amounted to a deliberate denial of history and justice.

Part of the problem was the two reserves above were on farms owned by Alan Titford and his neighbour Don Harrison. Titford made the case a cause celebre of the anti-treaty brigade, fuelled by his muddled interpretation of the documentary record. Harrison, from my conversations with him, just seemed to be agin Maori on principle.

Both were paid out generously for their properties, but claimed it wasn't enough. Titford went off to Tasmania, but appears to have made a hash of things there by not being able to get on with his neighbours, and came back to stir up trouble again.

The pair were stopped by police from turning up at the settlement ceremony because of threats Titford made against claimants.

The OTS summary of the settlement skillfully hides crucial detail.

1. What is the total cost to the Crown?
$9.5 million plus interest from the date of the signing of the Deed of Settlement, and the cost of cultural sites returned, as listed at 1(A).

Yes, but how much did OTS pay to buy the various blocks? How much is the surplus valued at? What further profit is it making from its misdeeds towards Te Roroa?

OTS claims the settlement recognises the economic loss suffered by Te Roroa as a result of treaty breaches and "is aimed at providing Te Roroa with resources to assist them to develop their economic and social well-being." To that end, Te Roroa will receive a combination of Crown-owned land and cash to a value of $9.5 million, and have a 50 year right of first refusal "to buy, at full market value, certain surplus Crown-owned properties."

Grind their faces in it a little longer.

Economic loss is something OTS seems to want to fight to the bitter end, whether it is a small hapu wanting to asset ties to land of marginal economic value in Northland, or the Port Nicholson claimants who were cheated out of much of central Wellington. If it was taken by the gun they may pay compo, but confiscation by pen is too close to home for the bureaucrats.

The rest of the settlement is full of the contrived nonsense about food gathering areas and correcting place names which were developed in the Ngai Tahu settlement and have been clung on to by bureaucrats ever since as the model - write a manual on how to be a Maori.

Te Roroa isn't the longest negotiation, and it's certainly not the biggest example of claimants getting short changed. There are claims reported on earlier which are still not settled.

Unless this Government puts a rocket up OTS and reviews its whole process (something Margaret Wilson neglected to do when Labour returned to Government six years ago, preferring to run with Doug Graham's great white father model), the chances of settling all historical claims by the current deadline are as remote.


Blogger Mike Butler said...

What Adam Gifford fails to say is that the claim for the alleged reserves Manuwhetai and Whangaiariki was created out of thin air in 1899 when an elderly Te Rore Taoho, who had participated in the proceeds of the sale of the Maunganui block, wrote to to surveyor general S. Percy Smith seeking land or money to replace what he described as “his land at the bluff” that had been sold.

This claim was knocked back on December 30, 1899, but claimants continued to assert that Whangaiariki was a native reserve and Manuwhetai was a wahi tapu, and these assertions were submitted to the Stout-Ngata Commission in 1908. Just 10 years after the claim was conjured up out of thin air, the Stout-Ngata Commission recommended that the areas should be reserved for Maori Occupation under Part II of the Native Land Settlement Act 1907.

Repeated petitions resulted in s special sitting of the Native Land Court at Kaihu July 6, 1939, where Acheson heard the Manuwhetai and Whangaiariki claim. Acheson recommended in favour of the claim but Chief Judge G.P. Shepherd recommended to parliament on July 2, 1942, that Manuwhetai and Whangaiariki should not be vested in Maori ownership.

Gifford bleats like a bleeding heart that the government did not do enough to satisfy the grasping Te Roroa claimants when in fact the claim was based on an opportunistic try-on that should never have resulted in financial redress.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

Tiresome Mike. Cherrypocking history to whip up racist resentment.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Mike Butler said...

And who is cherrypicking history, Adam? You cite Judge Acheson’s recommendation but did not report the recommendation of his superior, Chief Judge G.P. Shepherd, who recommended to parliament on July 2, 1942, that Manuwhetai and Whangaiariki should not be vested in Maori ownership.

Shepherd gave the reasons for his recommendation. The only reserve provided in the 1876 sale was a 250-acre eel fishery reserve known as Taharoa for vendor Parore Te Awha; Manuwhetai and Whangaiariki were not mentioned in the deed of sale, or in the inquiry into the sale held in 1876; the sale deed had a certificate to show that vendors Parore Te Awha and Tiopira Kinaki understood the terms of the sale; that deed had a certificate to show no fraud had taken place; and a memo dated February 12, 1876, confirmed that Parore got Taharoa.

Yes, the case was clear-cut in 1942 as Shepherd laid it out, not clear-cut in the way you lay it out.

Interesting, also, that you immediately accuse me of trying to whip up racist resentment. Is this white or brown racist resentment that I am whipping up? Can you not debate the issue without launching into abuse?

8:19 PM  
Blogger Jack Maru said...

Mainstream media whip up a frenzy of hatred against local Maori.....Now that the truth has established ...where is the accountability and apology from Media ...They got suckered in big time and made a mint selling there crap news....Time to Fess-Up ...

5:46 PM  

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