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Te Roroa Claims Settlement Bill - Tariana Turia

Te Roroa Claims Settlement Bill

Committee stage

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Thursday 4 September 2008

When we come to Te Roroa claim, we recognize the wider framework in which all Treaty settlements take place. It is vital that we get it right.

And inevitably, when we think of those who are putting forward claims – the statutory registration threshold is that claimants must be Maori and then cite the actions of the Crown that were prejudicial in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi – we also think of all of those who have signed up to those claims, and their descendents.

In the case of Te Roroa, I will never forget one particular submission put forward by Te Roroa Manawhenua Trust and Te Roroa Whatu Ora Trust.

That submission suggested that Te Roroa will not be in a strong financial position following settlement, but they were prepared to concede that following fourteen years of difficult negotiations, the settlement reached was the best possible deal available in the circumstances.

In the circumstances.

Circumstances brought to the world’s attention last year, by a damning report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The United Nations committee were concerned by government's routine ignoring of the Waitangi Tribunal recommendations, noting that "such arrangements deprive claimants of a right to an effective remedy".

These are circumstances which are tabled in this House on an ongoing basis. The views of the people – that the Treaty settlements process is an exhausting, abusive process grinding claimants into a position of defeated acceptance.

But as Te Roroa Manawhenua Trust and Te Roroa Whatu Ora Trust reminded us, it was thebest possible deal available in the circumstances.

What made this submission stand out in my memory forever, was a simple statement followed by a list of names – a roll call of three and a half pages long.

The Trustees wished to note the people who have passed away during this period.

That was the full extent of their submission. The sense of absolute defeat and emptiness is so palpable.

Ka mau mahara matou ki a ratou. We will always remember them.

What is even more poignant of course, is that we know that list will be longer now.

The cost to Te Roroa, both at a financial level and in relation to suffering and loss of the Te Roroa people has been really high.

And we are mindful that these costs extend outside the boundaries of their rohe.

Overlapping Claims

The Select Committee report noted the late introduction to the debate of concerns from the Hokianga whanau, hapu, land and resource claims collective. Their view was that the Te Roroa settlement would jeopardise their claims and they sought assurance from the select committee that such an injustice would not take place.

The Office of Treaty Settlements confirmed that during negotiations it had consulted groups who have claims inside Te Roroa’s area of interest – but that work on claims in the surrounding areas was incomplete.

Although the Select Committee noted the situation was unsatisfactory no amendment to the Bill could improve it.

And so again, an injustice continues.

Quantum

What happened to Te Roroa must not be relegated to history. The record of the continued breaches by the Crown against Te Roroa is a matter for the public record that we must all learn from that.

This House must take responsibility for the Crown’s confiscation of Te Kopuru block and the destruction of Ngati Whiu and Ngati Kawa communities.

This House must take responsibility for the unconscionable seizure of the multi-billion dollar flora and fauna of the Waipoua Forest.

This House must take responsibility for theft of Te Roroa wähi tapu, its attempted destruction of the Waipoua community, its violation of taonga and its persistent failure to listen to Te Roroa grievances.

These are not matters that can rest easily in the nation’s conscience, and neither should they.

Given the extent, seriousness and continuation of the Crown’s breaches against Te Roroa the Maori Party has placed on record, our immense dissatisfaction with the quantum under proposal.

Our recommendation had been that the quantum must be increased sufficiently to allow Te Roroa to purchase both Kaharau and Te Taraire – and also to ensure the durability of the settlement.

Kaharau and Te Taraire

The Crown refused to include Kaharau and Te Taraire in the Treaty settlement, or to find a way in which it could be included.

I want us all to reflect, what such obstinance does to the soul of a people. Kaharau is a large area that includes burial caves. Te Taraire is an area of similar cultural significance. Both areas are located at Waimamaku. They are sites of critical cultural redress, and the failure to see them as such, compromises the settlement.

Not only was nothing included in the quantum for the express purpose of buying back these areas, but many in Te Roroa found the suggestion that they be forced to buy back their own wähi tapu - including köiwi of their tupuna and wakatupapaku – insulting, offensive and degrading.

Full and Final Settlement

We have been particularly concerned about the negative impact that poor settlement processes have on the durability of any settlement, and the deep rifts that have arisen because of the effect of flawed processes on overlapping claimants.

The process has often created enormous harm within the tribal relationships that have existed for generations.

In the case of Te Roroa we think back to the submissions of Patrick Paraone Welsh; of Sheena Ross for the Moetara whanau, of Rev Daniel Ambler, a former tribal negotiator; of Garry Hooker, Te Roroa’s tribal historian and mandated negotiator – and the overwhelming sadness that they expressed in their submissions.

It was their considered opinion, that given the strength of claimant objections to being forced into a“full and final settlement”, that the Crown should abandon the use of this phrase.

Will Ngakuru told the select committee that as members of Te Roroa and descendants of Ngakuru Pana, the settlement would never be full and final until the burial places at Kaharau and Te Taraire were returned as was the wish of their tupuna.

Seven words in that submission said it all “We agree to this Bill under duress”.

Duress – to be co-erced; to be forced into something beyond your will – is that really what we want our Treaty relationship to be?

Another way forward was recommended by Professor David Williams who suggests that rather than go down the path of unseemly haste, with the obsession with timeframes and deadlines, that all parties should engage in a longer conversation.

Madam Speaker, these settlements are truly what one could understand as heart-breaking.

And I have been listening to National and the speeches you have made on this Bill and others.

And you may get your day.

But the parameters were in fact set by your party.

If the opportunity should present itself let’s see if you can do it better.

We in the Maori Party are always torn with our love for the people, and our respect that their wishes be heard – and yet our absolute contempt for the way in which the policies and procedures used to negotiate settlements with hapu and iwi have been so flawed.

Na reira Madam Speaker, tena tatou katoa.

ends


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