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Maori Claims "Monstrous Scam"



One of the biggest Maori claims yet, involving the land between Taupo and Rotorua, is another attempt to re-open issues settled in the last century, says the secretary of the One New Zealand Foundation, Mr George Ferens..

"It is another example of the Waitangi Tribunal taking 'another bite of the cherry' and seeking a double ration of compensation," says the Foundation's secretary.

The claim involves most of the central North Island - the volcanic plateau of 165,000 hectares including the huge Kaingaroa state forest, Lake Waikaremoana and 14 lakes in the Rotorua district. The claim could extend to the geothermal resources at Orakei Korako near Taupo, hydro power stations and man-made lakes like Atiamuri and Matahina. Up to $500 million is being sought for the value of forestry land, and $128 in rent accumulated on the forests.

"These claims are greedy and dishonest," says Mr Ferens. "For instance, the Kaingaroa Plain of 48,600 hectares was purchased by the Crown in 1887 for the sum of 15,000 pounds which was paid in cash."

The Government had expressed an interest in purchasing the land in 1877 and authorised Gilbert Mair to carry out a survey. In 1879 the purchase of the Kaingaroa block was brought before the Native Land Court where the ownership was awarded to the Ngati Manawa in spite of opposition from neighbouring tribes. The actual purchase was made when Mair personally delivered the money almost two years later in $100 pound notes.

The Ngati Manawa were so pleased with this settlement that they accorded Mair a tremendous welcome, he recorded afterward. He described how more than 100 tents and marquees lined the marae, with 800 men performing the haka of welcome. The body of their chief, Peraniko, who had been a personal friend of Mair's, was exhumed from the grave, and dressed for the occasion. Mair records that it seemed perfectly preserved. Hatless and with bowed head, Mair stood for three hours deeply moved by the tangi from over 3000 voices.

"The money paid - of around five shillings a hectare - might seem small today, but represented a fair land value at the time of the purchase."

The claims for a large part of the Rotorua lake district seek to make vast increases to an annuity "in full and final settlement" reached in 1923. Te Arawa are seeking to increase the annuity of $18,000 to $400,000 plus a share of the revenue.

"While inflation has decreased the annuity we must not forget that Te Arawa ancestry has also decreased until today the majority of Te Arawa have more of the ancestry they claim took the lakes, than those who had given up the lakes.

"If we are to revisit every purchase of Maori land in the last century and a half and seek to increase the price paid to the inflated values of today, it could bankrupt the economy. If such claims are to stand up, it would mean that every New Zealander who sold a house, say 20 years ago, could go back to the purchaser and demand what the property would fetch today."

"It is also ridiculous to claim rent for improvements which the Government has made like the planting of the Kaingaroa forest. If you sell a section of land, you can't go back and claim rent on a house the purchaser has built on it."

The Chairman of the Waitangi Tribunal, Judge Eddie Durie, had admitted that dubious evidence had been presented in Maori claims.

"These claims are nothing but a scam on a monstrous scale and the New Zealand public is getting fed up with payouts of hundreds of millions of public funds, and the capitulation of the Government to the Waitangi Tribunal.

"The Government once again is prepared to break valid contracts to appease their Maori voters at taxpayers' expense. What is more worrying is the racial division and bad feeling these claims will engender if they are allowed to continue. We fear it will end in bloodshed."




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