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Third Reading: Te Urewera-Tūhoe Bill

Hon Dr Pita Sharples
Minister of Māori Affairs

24 July 2014

Third Reading: Te Urewera-Tūhoe Bill
Parliament House, Wellington

He kohu, he kohu, tau ana, tau ana.
Tau tāpapa ana ki runga ki a Maungapōhatu a Hinepūkohurangi.
E, ko Tūhoe-Pōtiki, nau mai, hara mai rā, nau mai.

I am deeply honoured to welcome to this House, the sons and daughters of Maungapōhatu; the children of Hinepūkohurangi; and the descendants of Tūhoe-Pōtiki.

I am honoured because this landmark legislation concludes its passage in the final weeks of my office as Minister of Māori Affairs.

What a privilege to be part of such an historic process!

For the past 26 years since lodging the first of a long series of Treaty claims, Tūhoe have resolutely retraced their steps back to a time 118 years ago.

Back then, Tūhoe had within its grasp what no other iwi had been able to attain under colonial rule: recognition of its right to govern itself and to forge its own destiny.

The Urewera District Native Reserve Act 1896 was the culmination of more than 20 years of negotiations between the Crown and Te Whitu Tekau.

It enshrined Tūhoe traditional land, as a 2650 square km reserve within which titles would be determined by a Tūhoe controlled commission.

Most importantly, the Act allowed for internal self-government based on Tūhoe customs and protocol.

The Urewera reserve was the only autonomous tribal district ever provided for in New Zealand law.

But it was too good to last.

In utter disregard for its own policies, the Government began buying up the very land it was supposed to be protecting.

The bold new Act was side-lined, undermined, and eventually repealed.

Today a new dawn has come. It has taken until now to reach the point Tūhoe were at in 1896.

Raupatu robbed Tūhoe twice over and made them landlocked and impoverished.

Confiscation of the tribe’s best land was, in the view of many, a form of looting intended to take the wealth and break the autonomy of Tūhoe.

Even when the mistake was realised - that the wrong tribe had been punished for rebellion - the land was never returned.

Only to result in what some describe as ‘compounding the evil’.

Historical accounts describe the famines that killed nearly a quarter of the population of Te Urewera in the late 1890s – the legacy of confiscation and military rampages.

The devastating revelations captured in four volumes of evidence by the Waitangi Tribunal - is an illusion-shattering experience.

More than a catalogue of unjust acts by successive governments, the evidence reveals a calculated intent to destroy.

Punishment of the most crippling and permanent kind.

After confiscation came invasion. In joining Te Kooti, Tūhoe earned the full wrath of the colonial government.

No part of their homeland was left unscathed.

Nonchalant inhumanity was standard fare.

Scorched earth tactics, the execution of unarmed prisoners, and the killing of non-combatants was as some describes ‘almost a sport’.

The commander of the government forces at the time, Colonel George Whitmore put it plainly when he remarked, ‘Well now I am going to punish them. They must be exterminated.’

The threat of starvation hung over Tūhoe for much of the early twentieth century. It too was a brutal weapon in the government’s arsenal; and was used without hesitation.

Whitmore again wrote that when his men were off duty they ‘roamed the country foraging, destroying crops, and burning kainga.’

At Lake Waikaremoana, the officer in charge of the expeditionary force gloated that his men had destroyed a quantity of potatoes that would have fed one thousand men for 15 months.

Whitmore and his troops were praised for their conspicuous courage. Only now, a century and a half later does their conspicuous brutality come to light.

Mr Speaker, a new dawn has arrived.

This is a settlement to be celebrated!

Firstly, for the Crown’s willingness to negotiate the unique environment of Te Urewera.

Secondly, for the Crown’s readiness to address the formerly politically unpalatable concept of ‘mana motuhake’.

No other iwi has made ‘mana motuhake’ a non-negotiable component of its Treaty claim.

This settlement is an acknowledgement that Te Urewera has its own identity and integrity; and cannot be anyone’s possession.

I quote lead negotiator Tamati Kruger who said:

My feeling is that the land was here first, so nobody owns it. If anything, it owns you. The water owns the water, the land owns the land. So our proposition to the Government has been, ‘let us agree that Te Urewera owns itself’.”

And this is how the Crown’s settlement with Tūhoe has turned out.

Te Urewera national park status is to be revoked; and the land vested as an independent legal entity under its own Act of Parliament

The settlement is a profound alternative to the human presumption of sovereignty over the natural world.

It restores to Tūhoe their role as kaitiaki.

It embodies their hopes for self-determination.

Tūhoe autonomy for the twenty first century.

Tūhoe services for Tūhoe benefit on Tūhoe terms.

Tūhoe living by Tūhoe traditions; and Tūhoe aspirations.

Mr Speaker, Tūhoe has always approached resolution with the Crown in a principled and determined manner.

Through this settlement, the Crown has been given a second chance to work with Tūhoe in an honourable way.

It provides a platform for the future.

It enables a stronger Tūhoe economy.

It is a lifeline to reinstate Tūhoe independence and cultural permanency.

In the face of incredible injustice, today we witness the incredible generosity of the families of Tūhoe-Pōtiki who wish to settle with the Crown.

Again, I pay tribute to the sons and daughters of Hinepūkohurangi for their leadership and mana.

Mr Speaker I am proud to stand in support of the final reading of the Bill.

I end by quoting a billboard standing on the northern boundary of Tūhoe land at Waimana Valley.

A portent for all parties involved in this settlement.

For the mist and the mountains, forests and rivers shall stand witness to your thoughts and deeds.’

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora tātou.

ENDS

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