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Speech: Turia - Rongowhakaata Claims Settlement Bill

Rongowhakaata Claims Settlement Bill
First Reading Speech
Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party
Thursday 8 March 2012; 8.30pm
Mr Speaker, I move that the Rongowhakaata Claims Settlement Bill be now read a first time.

Mr Speaker, at the appropriate time I intend to move that the Bill be considered by the Mäori Affairs Committee.

E ngā maunga o Puketapu rāua ko Manawaru, e ngā awa o Te Arai te Uru rāua ko Waipaoa, e ngā uri o Rongowhakaata, e ngā uri o Te Kooti…ko te kahui maunga o Whanganui tēnei…e mihi atu nei ki a koutou.

Ngati Maru, Ngai Tawhiri, Ngati Kaipoho. Nau mai ki Paremata.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

I want to welcome the representatives of Rongowhakaata and Ngā Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi who have joined us today for this significant occasion.

Today we acknowledge the historical grievances of Rongowhakaata. A particular feature of the settlement is a specific apology to Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi and redress to address the ongoing effect of breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi by the Crown in its treatment of their tupuna.

The settlement of historical injustices inevitably bring into our living memory and thoughts, those ancestors who gave life to the generations of today.

The iwi of Rongowhakaata describe themselves as the descendants of Rongowhakaata and his wives; the sisters Turahiri, Uetupuke, and Moetai. Ruapani is another important tupuna for many of Rongowhakaata.

The first reading of the Rongowhakaata Claims Settlement Bill is an important step towards completing a journey which has taken many years. It is a journey that began in 1987 with the lodging of Rongowhakaata’s first claim with the Waitangi Tribunal.

Rongowhakaata stem from the Turanganui a Kiwa and were represented in negotiations with the Crown by the Rongowhakaata Claims Committee.

Ngā Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi, also known as Ngā Uri, are a whanau group who descend from Te Kooti Rikirangi. Ngā Uri negotiated specific redress as part of Rongowhakaata’s Treaty settlement.

The area of interest is concentrated around Gisborne and its surrounding lands. It extends from Te Kōwhai on the southern side, across to its most western point at Ruakituri, then northwards to Maungapere and Wharekopae and east towards Gisborne city.

The Waitangi Tribunal held its Turanganui a Kiwa District Inquiry in 2001 and 2002 which investigated the claims of the three Tūranga iwi, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tamanuhiri and Te Aitanga a Māhaki and affiliates.

While today we acknowledge the 25 years of dedicated commitment in pursuit of the claims first laid in 1987, the matters being dealt with do, of course, stretch out for decades beyond. The historical Treaty claims for Rongowhakaata and Ngā Uri stem from the Crown actions in Turanganui a Kiwa during the 1860s which were both severe and unjust.

In 1865 Crown military forces attacked Waerenga a Hika. There was no apparent reason for doing so.

This lead to the detention, without trial, of many of the Rongowhakaata peoples on the Chatham Islands for several years and the effective confiscation of the wharenui Te Hau ki Tūranga and a large area of Rongowhakaata land at Patutahi.

In the first six months of 1866 approximately thirty Rongowhakaata men who were considered to be Pai Marire sympathisers were taken to the Chatham Islands, they were referred to as ‘native political offenders’.

These men were never tried for any offence. Approximately nine women and eight children were among the 49 Turanga women and 38 children who accompanied their men. The removal of over 200 Maori, including leaders, had a severe impact on the iwi, their hapu and whanau who remained in Turanga.

This history has a particular relevance for me. Next week I will be heading to Wharekauri – a trip which in today’s times takes approximately three hours by plane.

It beggars belief to think about a similar journey being undertaken close to 150 years ago – and the questions are multiple – why Wharekauri? How long did the journey take? What were the conditions of travel? How did whānau, separated for over two years without reason, ever adjust to the grief, the resentment, and the anger?

I want to share some of the history, as it was recorded in the Deed of Settlement, and I quote:

The Government required the detainees and their whanau to live in miserable conditions. The Chatham Islands could get much colder than what the prisoners were used to and they did not have adequate clothing.

As many as twenty-eight detainees died while on the Chathams including some of the women and children who had accompanied them. It is likely that there were more deaths which went unrecorded.

Those prisoners who survived were detained on the Chatham Islands until Te Kooti Rikirangi led an escape in 1868. At that time, a bitter war developed, and at Ngatapa in January 1869 Crown forces summarily executed a large number of Rongowhakaata.

This has to be one of the most tragic events in the history of Rongowhakaata – in fact in the history of this country - and indeed a shameful past of the Crown.

Between 1865 and 1872 more than 40% of Tūranga men died as a consequence of Crown military action. A fatal decimation of a people– the impact upon successive generations can not be under-stated.

Since this time, the Crown’s acts and omissions have left Rongowhakaata culturally, economically and socially marginalised.

We must never forget this history – it is our history and it does not need to constrain our future.

Today, this House attempts to understand the hostile context that Rongowhakaata experienced, and to make every effort to move forward.

This settlement includes an apology for the Crown's actions and omissions that breached the Treaty and its principles, including those which contributed to the stigmatisation of Te Kooti Rikirangi and his descendants.

The Crown recognised the mandate for the Rongowhakaata Claims Committee in 2005. The mandate of Ngā Uri negotiators’ was also recognised. The three Tūranga iwi entered into terms of negotiation with the Crown as a collective group in 2007.

In 2008, the collective signed an Agreement in Principle with the Crown.

Following the collective separating in 2009, Rongowhakaata and Ngā Uri entered into negotiations with the Crown for a deed of settlement. The Deed of Settlement was initialled at Te Hau ki Tūranga in July 2011 and was subsequently ratified by the claimant community. In September 2011, Rongowhakaata, Ngā Uri and the Crown signed the Deed of Settlement.

While the Crown recognises that settlement redress can never fully compensate Rongowhakaata and Ngā Uri for what has been lost through breaches of the Treaty, this settlement is a gesture of goodwill and signifies the beginning of a new post-settlement relationship between Rongowhakaata, Ngā Uri and the Crown.

Mr Speaker, I believe it is only right, that the last word should go to Rongowhakaata as articulated in the Deed of Settlement. It said:

Rongowhakaata consider that, since May 1840, the Crown has committed fundamental breaches of the spirit, intention and terms of the Treaty causing severe prejudice to Rongowhakaata including unjustifiable loss of life in the protection of their lands and confiscation of their lands and resources (including iconic taonga like Te Hau ki Turanga) resulting in the economic, social, cultural and political marginalisation and deprivation of Rongowhakaata that is still seen today.

On the other hand, Rongowhakaata consider that despite the killing of their people by the Crown and the extreme prejudice and the intergenerational hardship caused by the confiscation of their lands and resources, Rongowhakaata have upheld the spirit and the terms of the Treaty in many ways.

Mr Speaker, I consider that the Bill should proceed without delay to Māori Affairs Committee.

I commend this Bill to the House.


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