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Ngati Tama Claims Settlement Bill – Turia Speech

Hon. Tariana Turia
18 November 2003 Speech Notes

Ngati Tama Claims Settlement Bill – second reading

I stand today to acknowledge the tragic history that has seen the Crown ‘profoundly regret and unreservedly apologise to Ngati Tama for its actions.’

In speaking of profound regret, the Crown recognises the intense impacts felt by the people of Ngati Tama, of a history which has been described by the Waitangi Tribunal in the Taranaki Report, and formally recognised in the acknowledgment and apology given by the Crown to Ngati Tama in the Deed of Settlement.

The historical claims of Ngati Tama relate to the proclamation of martial law throughout Taranaki on 22 February 1860. Within three years, Ngati Tama had 74,000 acres of land confiscated. Every acre that could have been taken, was taken. A mere 3458 acres of this land – one twentieth of what was taken - was returned some twenty years later, but it was in individual title and perpetually leased to settlers.

In 1882, a Native Land Court ruling cost Ngati Tama two large blocks that had not been confiscated. One cannot help but wonder whether this was punishment for Ngati Tama's support for the passive resistance campaign based at Parihaka. The people of Ngati Tama had witnessed, and experienced, suffering when Parihaka was sacked and looted by Crown troops in 1881, and the people imprisoned or dispersed.

Mr Speaker, Ngati Tama have borne the burden of this history for over 150 years now. This Bill acknowledges the wrongs that were done, the suffering that Taranaki peoples encountered as a result of colonial contact and behaviour.

Mr Speaker, the campaign of alienation, assimilation and deculturation launched against the people of Taranaki well over a century ago must not be forgotten or filed away in our collective memories as a historic grievance.

The suffering caused by the confiscation of tribal lands, and the invasion of Parihaka and imprisonment of the men – some were held for up to eighteen years without trial - remain a painful legacy for our nation. This Bill recognises that the treatment of Ngati Tama people was unconscionable and unjust, and that these actions constituted a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. We must not allow our knowledge of these actions to sink into collective amnesia.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House, as a further step towards recognising the status and rights of Ngati Tama.

A settlement such as this marks a beginning, not an end. The recitals of history, the apology, and the transfer of assets are, first and foremost, Mr Speaker, an official acknowledgement of the status and rights of Ngati Tama as tangata whenua.

Within this Bill there is statutory acknowledgement of areas in which Ngati Tama has particular cultural, spiritual, historical and traditional association including parts of the Pukearuhe site, Tongaporutu conservation area, Pou Tehia historic reserve and others.

Mr Speaker, they also include the coastal marine area in Ngati Tama's area of interest, and marginal strips, swamps and rivers. The Schedules to the Bill acknowledge Ngati Tama's links with these areas, which are part of the identity and mana of the iwi.

The purpose of this acknowledgement is to assist Ngati Tama to participate in decision-making on these areas, by local bodies and resource management consent agencies.

The recovery of lost property is an important part of a Treaty settlement – but it is not the most important.

The return of land reverses previous losses through confiscation, or the operations of the Native Land Court and the Native Trustee. Loss of land led to social and cultural breakdown of whanau and hapu, and impoverishment of the people.

The settlement of claims and return of property is intended to be part of a process of community rebuilding, of whanau, hapu and iwi development and empowerment.

That is why I am pleased that the government has noted the Select Committee's concerns over the mandating process.

Whanau and hapu support for the governance entity is a critical element of whanau, hapu and iwi reconstruction.

The fact that around 60 percent of Ngati Tama supported the settlement, while only 30 percent supported the governance arrangements for the settlement, is evidence that there are flaws in the Treaty claims settlement process.

The Ngati Tama Iwi Development Trust was initially approved by the Office of Treaty Settlements without enough collaboration with the people of Ngati Tama.

The Trust's mandate was opposed by 435 iwi members who signed form letters – around 40 percent of Ngati Tama. The allegations that the Trust was dominated by members of one family are very serious.

Ngati Tama have taken steps to address these concerns, by forming Te Runanga o Ngati Tama, and winding up the Trust. Elections for Trustees of the runanga are due to be held this coming January.

I urge all members of the iwi to use the elections as an opportunity to build an inclusive and representative organisation, that has a clear and strong mandate to carry forward their development plans. This is a time for all members of the iwi to look to the long-term interests of the iwi as a whole.

The importance of inclusive organisations, and constructive relationships, also arises in the matter of overlapping claims by Ngati Maniapoto. There is history here, too, in that Ngati Tama claimed interests in two large blocks north of the confiscation line at Mokau. The Native Land Court awarded exclusive title to Ngati Maniapoto.

This Bill offers exclusive redress to Ngati Tama in an area in which Ngati Maniapoto claims interests. The government believes Ngati Maniapoto's claims have not been sustained by independent research, and the Waitangi Tribunal has endorsed the Crown's policy.

Just as this settlement is a serious attempt by Ngati Tama and the Crown to resolve long-outstanding issues, there is also work to be done by Ngati Tama and Ngati Maniapoto to come to terms with their history, and look for a way to move forward together.

Mr Speaker, the vast legacy of Ngati Tama must not be allowed, as I said before, to sink into our collective amnesia. As Te Whiti said, ‘Those who are bent by the wind, shall rise again when the wind softens’. Let us hope and believe that with this Bill the wind has softened to ensure we all face the future with the insights of history informing our every move.


ENDS

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