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Te Roroa Claims Settlement Bill

Te Roroa Claims Settlement Bill 2007

Thursday 25 September 2008; 12.20pm

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Tena koe Mr Speaker.

E te iwi, Te Roroa, tena koutou.

The marae at Waimamaku is called Te Whakamaharatanga, built as a fitting tribute to soldiers who fought in the first and second world wars from South Hokianga.

Today, that name may well take on a new meaning.

The story of the relationship between the proud descendents of Ngai Tuputupuwhenua and the Crown has been charged with conflict, almost before the ink was dried on our constitutional document.

We think today of rangatira of Te Roroa – Te Pana Ruka, Wiremu Whangaroa, Timoti Takare, Hamiora Paekoraha and Matiu Tauhara –all who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

These tipuna were prepared to stake their honour on an aspiration for the future; a commitment to live together in this land.

Two years after that signing, an area between six and eight thousand acres of land at Te Kopuru was ceded to the Crown.

Just two years after the Treaty had been enacted, conflict had erupted.

The record of that first incident is as complex as any to follow over that century.

• Tangata whenua were concerned at the desecration of koiwi, of human remains.

• An incident broke out in a local store.

• The land was ceded while Ngati Whiu and Ngati Kawa, the hapu that had customary rights in the land, were away in the Hokianga.

• Ngati Kawa later protested that those who made the cession had no right to do so.

This one incident, contains many of the elements that would repeat over the centuries.

The grievous harm and cultural offence associated with the desecration of sacred burial sites.

What does it do to the soul of a people to endure the looting of their grave sites; the theft of their koiwi, the human remains of their people?

This is the repeated history for Te Roroa.

Many of their tapu sites passed out of Te Roroa care in the land alienation process starting in 1875. Particular examples of desecration took place at Aratapu and Kohekohe. Taonga were also likely to have been taken from the Piwakawaka Caves.

Mr Speaker, this has been one of the most painful aspects of a very painful settlement.

These taonga are sacred to the people. The reburial of koiwi; the handing back of taonga, are events in our living memory that connect us to a shameful history, a tragic past.

And so we come today to Te Roroa, to acknowledge the recognition at last from the Crown of a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We come today to acknowledge the impact that land alienation and fragmentation has had on Te Roroa, leaving them virtually landless.

We come today to grieve with you, in putting to rest the severe, heart-wrenching spiritual and emotional sense of loss in understanding the heavy toll on a people, in being separated from your wahi tapu and taonga.

We come today to meld our tears with you, nga aureretanga o Te Roroa, the continuous crying of Te Roroa.

In my time, short as it is, as Deputy Chair of the Maori Affairs Committee there have been many moments of sadness as we consider the settlement of historical claims. And I would like to acknowledge the chairmanship of Dave Hereora and the team, as they too felt very strongly for the people of Te Roroa, in this settlement.

There have been other issues in this settlement which have really affected us all.

The length of time that has transpired over the course of settling grievance extends back to 1861 when Rapana first spoke out over the cession of lands at Te Kopuru.

Te Roroa began petitioning the Crown from the late 1870s. In 1887 Te Roroa wrote letters and petitioned Parliament. Again in 1907. Another petition in 1925, and then in 1930. And then in 1933.

Maori Members of Parliament – Hone Heke, Te Rangi Hiroa and Tau Henare – were approached between 1903 and 1912.

And finally, 21 years ago, Te Roroa lodged a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal. This is the history of them seeking redress to their land.

This Bill today finally brings closure to a long and difficult process.

But there is still the enduring pain, particularly in the exclusion of Kaharau and Te Taraire.

We remember back to the Tribunal report of 1992 in which they urged the Crown to take all steps to acquire these lands, and to return them to tangata whenua as hapu estates. That’s the Tribunal report.

In the submission received from Will Ngakuru, we were told that while the Crown claims to be interested in a “full and final settlement”, as members of Te Roroa and descendants of Ngakuru Pana, peace will never prevail until their burial places of Kaharau and Te Taraire are returned as was the wish of their tipuna.

These sites of such sacred significance were never sold. It was always our contention that they need to be included in the cultural redress provisions of the Bill – either the Crown purchase of the lands, or funding their purchase by Te Roroa.

Although we acknowledge the sizeable increase in the quantum, we are disappointed that it is still inadequate to either purchase Kaharau and Te Taraire or to ensure future financial security for Te Roroa.

But I must acknowledge Dr Cullen and the team for extending the 9 million dollars with the ex-gratia payment of 6.5 million dollars to that.

If we as a Parliament are to invest in the durability of any settlement, we must invest in the wishes and aspirations of the people.

I do understand there are ongoing discussions with Te Roroa about the possibility of Kaharau and Te Taraire being included.

And I understand Parekura has something to do with this.

There are many long-standing issues of injustice in this Settlement. The treatment of wakatupapaku and köiwi has been found wanting.

And Dr Cullen has explained many of those injustices earlier on.

And, as with other settlements, the internal conflicts and division that have occurred throughout the passage of this settlement have been damaging to the spirit of the people that are so proud to be Te Roroa.

Throughout it all, these people, the Tall Ones, Te Roroa, have stood proud in their whakapapa, passionate to defend the legacy of their tupuna.

We in the Maori Party acknowledge the sacrifice and the dedication of all of the people who have fought and keep fighting to protect the honour of Te Roroa.

Te Roroa – we acknowledge you, to the courage of a people who have suffered greatly.

Te Roroa – you can be proud of your long-standing determination and the efforts and struggles of your tipuna, and your young ones alike, to restore peace and enduring justice for your people.

This is a day to remember, he ra whakamaharatanga.

Ends


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