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Te Ururoa Flavell: Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Bill

Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Bill: Second Reading

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Wednesday 30 August 2006

In his submission to the Waitangi Tribunal in June 2003, Professor Hirini Moko Mead of Ngati Awa raised the concept of Te Whakahoki Whenua - the return of the land.

He suggested that the removal of the ringa kaha - the forceful occupation by another people - and the restoration of ancestral rights - can be achieved either by defeating the group holding the ringa kaha or by arranging to have the land and therefore the mana over it, restored.

He raised, as an example, the re-taking of Maketu by the hapu of Te Arawa - thereby restoring the ancestral rights of Te Arawa over that area, some two hundred years after Ngai Te Rangi seized the land by conquest.

Mr Speaker, tonight we bear witness in this House, to the actions of the ringa kaha, those who represent the imposed Treaty Settlement process of the Crown, those who have threatened Te Kotahitanga the unity of Te Arawa Waka, in making monumental decisions about the large tracts of lakes and waterways and lands encompassed in this Bill.

And the question that the Maori Party brings to this debate - is how sufficient are the provisions within this Bill, in restoring the ancestral rights of Te Arawa over our cherished lakes and lands?

How is our rangatiratanga protected - or is it our fate to be eternally grateful for the breadcrumbs thrown to our people?

At the Select Committee hearings, submission after submission recorded the dissatisfaction of submitters, challenging the Crown that the financial compensation and responsibility for cleaning the Lakes is insufficient.

Te Arawa Federation of Maori Authorities made an impassioned call to suspend this Bill until more appropriate compensation and redress was available. To quote,

“Continuation of this settlement is irresponsible. We cannot recover from the deliberate barbaric efforts of Government to delay provision of maps and survey materials which would have enabled our ancestors to present themselves, prepared for the demands of the native Land Court.

We cannot understand why we were prosecuted for fishing in our own lakes. Our lakes and waterways are now devastated with unforgiving pollutants. Let us have the opportunity to reform an alliance which will not jeopardise our mana as a great tribe.”

It was a theme that was reinforced throughout the overwhelming majority of submissions, each one of them speaking of the threats that have been endured by te ahi kaa roa - those who keep the fires burning at home.

The rights of ahi kaa roa emerge from the mana and the freedom to enjoy the benefits of tino rangatiratanga over their home whenua.

And the question of those who can assert mana whenua, literally those who have mana, political control and authority, over the land; is a highly contentious issue within this Bill.

Ngati Whaoa hapu demanded that all reference to Lakes Opouri/ Ngapouri, Ngahewa, Tutaeinanga and Okaro be deleted from the Bill because they have never given mandate to any organisation to act on their behalf in the Lakes settlement.

They have never had a seat on the Board of Te Arawa Maori Trust, and additionally Ngati Whaoa lands, which include the Lakes, are subject to current Waitangi Tribunal claims. It is disappointing that we have a settlement when the issue of ownership over these lands and Lakes is still to be clarified.

Richard Charters in a separate submission searched the National Archives for the 1915 minute book relevant to the sale of Rotomahana Parekarangi; he reviewed the research reports leading to the 1922 settlement, and right through to the hui of 1997 for Te Arawa beneficiaries.

From this basis he concluded that there was no mandate given by the people of Lake Opouri; no ratification of the settlement by those owners; and in fact the people were excluded from voting on the settlement.

Then there’s Ngati Makino who claimed that the Bill does nothing to provide for the spiritual relationship between Ngati Makino and their ancestral lands, lakes and fisheries, their tribal identity.

Ngati Makino are strongly opposed, believing, and I quote “the net effects of clauses 13, 15 and 16 deny descendants of Te Arawa proper and just restitution of their taonga”.

Then there was Puamiria Maaka of Ngati Pikiao who stated that the financial compensation offered is an insult, and that the social and financial liability for the desecration of the lakes is not adequately addressed.

Maaka, and other submissions from Kiri Potaka-Dewes of Ngati Rangiteaorere; from Maru Tapsell of Waitaha, from Michelle Beckett of Ngati Whakaue have given particular emphasis to describing the proposed settlement as inconsistent with the tikanga of Te Arawa and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. I quote:

“The separation of the mana and authority of the beds of our lakes from the waters of our lakes and all other taonga within, is inconsistent with the cultural and spiritual integrity of the lakes themselves, and Te Arawa kawa and tikanga”.

The submission of Te Ariki Morehu, for and on behalf of Ngati Hinekura, talked about his position as an elder of Te Arawa, having been attained through his upbringing at Otaramarae, and over half a century of intense involvement in Te Arawa affairs.

Te Ariki expanded upon the metaphysical or spiritual relationship of Te Arawa with our lakes which he referred to as sacred, and regarded as a taonga since the discovery by their ancestor, Ihenga. He explored the significance of Te Arawa holding mana whenua and rangatiratanga over these lakes since the time of Ihenga - our customary role as owners and kaitiaki of the lakes.

He explained how these rights and responsibilities have been transmitted from generation to generation in Te Arawa waiata and karakia; their use governed by Te Arawa tikanga.

The lakes, waterways, streams, rivers, swamps and springs were a vital food source, a medicinal resource, as well as being part of an extensive communications network. He spoke about them being essential to the spiritual and cultural wellbeing of Te Arawa, the waters from various parts often used in ritual and ceremony. And I quote:

“For Te Arawa, their lakes and waterways are not inert lifeless objects. In a very real sense the lakes are regarded as tupuna awa, tupuna moana; living taonga of Te Arawa….the full names of Lakes Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti are Rotorua nui a Kahumatamomoe and te Roto iti i kitea ai e Ihenga; Te Arawa ancestors who came on the Arawa canoe.”

Malcolm Short, on behalf of Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust extended this further to note that Lake Rotorua is not just a taonga of all Te Arawa, but also a national treasure for all New Zealanders.

Against the context of our most precious taonga, the despoliation of the waters, the disruption of the relationship for Te Arawa peoples to their lakes, is seen as a catastrophic breach of Te Tiriti.

Te Ahi Kaa Roa o Maketu explained the ways in which the people have fought for decades against what was described as,

“the blankets of bureaucracy that have smothered our people”; and

“the erosion of the whanau and hapu integrity of tangata whenua”.

They said and I quote:

“this is the yardstick that I use when I state unreservedly that we are being ripped off”.

The rip off of the Crown’s policies and actions was given contemporary relevance with the submission from Colleen Skerrett-White, who advised that the Crown’s failure to protect the exploitation of Te Arawa’s culture, tikanga and kawa from the growing ravages of the tourism industry, alongside their actions with regards to the lands, lakes and geothermal interests, have effectively denied Te Arawa the opportunity to use and develop their assets, to move from a subsistence to a cash economy.

It was because of these actions, that as her submission stated,

“Ngati Rongomai and Ngati Te Rangiunuora are clear, that their responsibilities to their ancestors require them to vigorously oppose this settlement proposal, because it fails in so many respects to ensure the wellbeing of our lakes, our lands and our people”.

Mr Speaker, the debates in this House tonight, form part of the history that following generations will revisit. Indeed, the submission from David Wickliffe lays this challenge, and I quote:

“The Rotorua Lakes Bill is simply history repeating itself which we now know has not been in the best interests of Ngati Tamakari”.

It has been my intention tonight, to do the best that I can, to represent the interests and aspirations of my constituency. I have attempted to present their korero to this House, for the esteemed representatives here to consider their heartfelt call for justice.

Don Morrison - who can whakapapa to Ngati Rangiteaorere, Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Tunohopu, Ngati Taeotu, Ngati Karenga, Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Pukaki, spoke, as in turn his father, and his father, and his mother, and her father, Hemi Te Tuparoa had stood, to remind the Crown of what he called their deliberate discrimination that comes with appropriation and position of power against Te Arawa. He said, and I quote:

“it is stated the Crown profoundly regrets that past crown actions have had a negative impact on Te Arawa’s rangatiratanga…and you the Crown go further to ‘begin the process of healing”. Am I to be overcome with humility and gratitude and accept with thanks those words of fine gesture? I will tell my children’s children what I am about to tell you”.

The challenge for all members of this House tonight is, can we live with what we will tell our children’s children? Is the apology a sincere apology”? Is the redress appropriate to the rangatiratanga o Te Arawa? Is this the price of citizenship we should accept with thanks?

We have a whakatauaki, which I think is appropriate at this time

Kia mate ururoa, kei mate wheke

It is better to fight like a shark than to give in like an octopus.


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