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NZ Mission Trust Board Empowering Bill; second reading

New Zealand Mission Trust Board (Otamataha) Empowering Bill; second reading.

Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Ka nui te mihi ki a koe tēnei rā. I move, That the New Zealand Mission Trust Board (Otamataha) Empowering Bill be now read a second time.

I would like to thank the members of the Māori Affairs Committee, the fine committee that is chaired by the Hon Tau Henare, for the very prompt way in which they have dealt with the bill and recommended back to this House that it be passed with amendment. I note that the select committee received 14 submissions. The committee heard eight submissions, and we held all of our hearings in Tauranga.

Today this House moves history along, with our debate helping to advance the goal of eventually transferring land in the Tauranga area from the New Zealand Mission Trust Board to the newly created Ōtamataha Trust.

Just over a week ago I stood with other members of this House at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gate Pā—Pukehinahina . During the course of the day we attended the military memorial service at the Ōtamataha Mission Cemetery. At that sacred site, surrounded by pōhutukawa and bordering on the highway north, there is a solemn reminder of a history that so many of us, so many New Zealanders, have yet to know about. There are headstones representing young lives stolen from their family tree. Both British soldiers and mana whenua, were buried side by side.

That day added another story of the Waikato War alongside the battles of Rangiriri, Waiari, and Rangiaowhia, followed by Ōrākau at the beginning of this month. In June of this year the last major battle in the sequence, Te Ranga, also in the Tauranga area, will be commemorated. I wanted to set the New Zealand Mission Trust Board (Otamataha) Empowering Bill in this sort of context because when the select committee attended the hearings in Tauranga it was evident that the submitters had lived this history, and brought their tūpuna with them into the room. They continually told us that “The history is well known. Those events have been talked about among our people since they occurred.”

Stories were shared from the descendants of Koraurau, Hikareia, and Hori Tūpaea. We were told about the legacy of the koroua rangatira, such as Hēnare Taratoa, Hori Ngātai, and of Rawiri Puhirake, all of whom lie there at Ōtamataha—the whānau Kohu, the whānau Te Kani, the hapū Ngāi Tūkairangi, Ngāti Tapu, and Te Whānau a Tauwhao.

The Māori Party believes that a nation can only be as strong as its collective memory allows. Our past builds our present, and if we do not understand our history we are pretty much like a leaf that does not know it is a part of the tree.

We come to this particular history, the history and the story of the New Zealand Mission Trust Board and its benevolent intentions in establishing a trust for the purpose of spiritually benefiting and instructing local Māori. At the time, 1852, no doubt the Church Missionary Society had noble intentions and indeed many of the submissions noted that although the church and its missionaries brought what they described as “many good things to the tangata whenua of Tauranga” the so-called purchase of the land at Tauranga, including Ōtamataha, was never regarded by Māori as giving up their rights to the land.

The Tauranga Moana Māori Trust Board spelt out the situation really clearly in its submission. It said: “As the result of defending their lands at the Battles of Pukehinahina and Te Ranga tangata whenua were considered rebels and vast tracts of land where confiscated by the Crown. Included in the confiscated lands was the Otamataha site. The Crown, at is total discretion (indiscretion), vested the Otamataha lands in the Church Mission Society.”

Forty-four years after that land transaction, executed by Archdeacon Brown, the residue of the land, including Ōtamataha, was transferred by the Church Missionary Society to the New Zealand Mission Trust Board. Fast forward another century, and then in 1998 the trustees of that board, in recognition of the mana and the process by which the land was acquired from tangata whenua, all resigned en masse.

It is a fascinating story that deserves to be told. It has all the elements of a great thriller—a land-grab at the time of settlement, under the authority of the missionaries, legislative stealth via the Religious, Charitable, and Educational Trust Boards Incorporation Act 1884, a remorseful church that seeks the pathway for reconciliation, the mandate of the Waitangi Tribunal, which in 2004 found that the Crown was in breach of the Treaty principle of active protection, and the generosity of the hapū of Ngāti Tapu and Ngaitamarawaho in seeking to work with the Crown to put right the wrong.

Today we open a new chapter in that thriller. The purpose of the New Zealand Mission Trust Board (Otamataha) Empowering Bill is to extinguish the New Zealand Mission Trust Board and to discharge its trustees. To effect this purpose, legislation is required to mandate the change in the trust and the beneficiaries, namely that of the hapū of Ngāti Tapu and Ngaitamarawaho.

There is one other key element of this bill that requires some explanation. There was a call within some of the submissions for Ngāi Tūkairangi to be considered one of the beneficiaries alongside Ngaitamarawaho and Ngāti Tapu. The submission from Ngāi Tūkairangi outlined their support for the progression of the bill, while also noting their close whakapapa links to Ngaitamarawaho and Ngāti Tapu. They told the select committee: “We believe it is fundamentally necessary to include Ngāi Tūkairangi as one of the beneficiaries. To not address this issue leaves our hapū members distraught.”

The select committee took on the commitment to address this issue in good faith. We noted that when membership of the New Zealand Mission Trust Board had been given to hapū in the 1990s, Ngāi Tūkairangi had chosen to withdraw its involvement within that trust. We are also informed by the Waitangi Tribunal findings, that the strength of the customary interest in the land had not been determined. Our recommendation to the House therefore recognises that the interests of Ngāi Tūkairangi must be balanced against the needs of the existing trustees and the deed of the new trust.

The Ōtamataha Trust Board was amended in March 2014 to allow Ngāi Tūkairangi members to benefit, through their whakapapa links, to the historical hapū of Te Mate Rawaho, whose connections to the land are now recognised in the trust deed. A definition of Ngāti Tapu has also been expanded to take this whakapapa into account. The select committee therefore recommended that the bill should be amended to align it with the changes made in the trust deed.

Finally, I want to leave the last word on this bill to the Te Kohinga Reconciliation Network of Tauranga Moana. It was its contention that the bill will make a further contribution to the reconciliatory healing between Māori and the Crown and Māori and the church in Tauranga Moana.

Te Kohinga shared with the select committee a statement on the record from Archdeacon Brown, made prior to the Land Wars. He said: “I am between the devil and the deep blue sea. In time the Government will require more land … to steer clear of giving offence ‘to the powers that be’ [Government] and at the same time to sustain our character as Guardians of the Natives will require much of the ‘wisdom that cometh from above’.” On the face of it, 150 years ago the interests of the original owners were sacrificed, compromised, and extinguished in favour of the powers that be. Today we sanction an important move in restoring the Ōtamataha land to its rightful kaitiaki, and in doing so offer the potential for reconciliation and resolution of the wider Te Papa Block issue in Tauranga. Under those conditions I thank the members of the Māori Affairs Committee and the officials for their help. We know that there is one more reading to go, and it will be done and dusted. I appreciate the help of all the Māori Affairs Committee, and I commend this bill to the House.

Ends

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