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Hearing on Protection of Patricia Grace's Ancestral Land

Court Hearing This Thursday 13 March on Protection of Prominent Author Patricia Grace's Ancestral Land

There is an important hearing of the Maori Land Court this Thursday 13 March at 9am where author Patricia Grace and her family are seeking special protection for their ancestral land, which is threatened by Steven Joyce's Kapiti Expressway proposal. Ms Grace's family originally gifted large areas of land for the development and settlement of Waikanae but now the National Government has routed its proposed road straight through the family's last remaining piece of land. It is an area of high archeological and historic value.

In recent weeks a wide group of New Zealand's leading authors have rallied in support of Patricia (see their statement below). They argue that the government is showing no respect for an important cultural figure.

Supporters of Patricia Grace, including Save Kapiti members, will be
at the hearing to support her on the day.

The hearing is being held at Whakarongotai Marae in Waikane, starting at9am.

Open Letter to:

Prime Minister John Key
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee
Nathan Guy, MP for Horowhenua-Kapiti

The government is currently going ahead with plans under the Public Works Act to literally bulldoze a road through the land of Patrica Grace. While we are aware that many landowners have lost land through this project and have every sympathy for them, we believe Patricia’s land is a special case that deserves to be exempt from the current plan.

Patricia’s land is Maori freehold land but more than that, it is land of major historical significance. Patricia has inherited this land from her tipuna, her great, great grandfather Wi Parata Te Kakakura. This government has either done no research into the significance of Wi Parata and this land or has simply ignored the facts.

Wi Parata was an extremely important leader of not only the Te Ati Awa, Ngati Toa and Ngati Raukawa coaltion of tribes but also a leader of national signficance. On behalf of his hapu he commanded large tracts of land, particularly in what is the present town of Waikanae. If fact, large sections of the present town of Waikanae were gifted by Wi Parata for the railway line, the central town and the church. This is recognised in the significant statue over his grave in the cemetery of St Luke’s Anglican church in Waikanae and his image in the main stained glass window of this same church.

Wi Parata also gifted land to the church for a school in the present site of Porirua and when the school was never built, he sought legal remedies to have this land returned. This was the basis of the landmark legal case Wi Parata vs Bishop of Wellington in which the infamous words were uttered by Judge Prendergrast that the treaty was, quote, “a simple nullity.” This is cited by many historians and experts as one of the lowest points in the state’s attitude towards the Treaty of Waitangi.

Despite many such failures on the part of the Crown during his lifetime, including the invasion of Parihaka which he had close ties to, Wi Parata was always a man of peace who had faith in the systems of justice put in place by the settler government. This is underlined by the fact that he was the MP for Western Maori.

The lands he commanded in Waikanae were eventually whittled down by aggressive government purchasing policies and the fragmentation brought about by the Native Land Court legislation. However he retained and passed on the block of land that was the site of the primary Maori settlement in Waikanae. A section of that block of land is now in the possession of Patricia Grace. After gifting much land to the state and having the state make predatory purchases of much of the rest, this piece of land is the last remnant. The Crown is intending to take the best part of what is a fairly small section anyway.

We believe the way Patricia Grace has been treated in this process is nothing less than disgraceful. She was never properly approached during the consultation process. She was then approached after the deadline for consultation had passed and the tactics used by a member of the state agency were aggressive and insulting. At the time Patricia had just lost her mother and her late husband Dick Grace had the onset on what would be a terminal illness. While all consultation meetings with Maori have been recorded by the LTSA’s Amos Kamo, right down to casual meetings in the Thistle Inn with one person, the meeting with Patricia was never recorded officially.

This land has been passed down by Wi Parata, a man who worked for the good of both Maori and Pakeha and went to great lengths to encourage good race relations. He was a man of honour who had faith in the institutions of state to honour the treaty’s promise that Maori could retain the “undisturbed possession” of their lands. Patricia’s father and uncles served the Crown as soldiers in the 28th Maori Battalion, of which her novel Tu is based on.

This novel is just one of the many great works of literature that Patricia has given to not only Aotearoa-New Zealand but also to the world. Her place in New Zealand literature is remarkable and unquestionably significant. Her work has been highly praised both nationally and internationally. The issues of Maori land and land loss are are throughout her fiction.

We believe it should not be too much to ask that she should not have to fight, particularly at her stage of life, to retain a piece of land that is hers by whakapapa. She should be able to pass it on to her descendents and the iwi of Te Ati Awa.

We believe that Patricia and her whanau have given a great deal to this country for over 100 years. This parcel of land is the last remaining remnant in an area that was once completely under their mana. Maori have lost a great deal of land under the Public Works Act – the government should not be able to take the last vestiges of Maori land held by Patricia Grace under this same Act.

We also believe that the government needs to demonstrate that there really has been progress since Prendergrast’s judgement and that the treaty is not still simply “a nullity” in their eyes. If they proceed with taking Patricia’s land it will not only be an insult to her. It will also be an insult to the memory of Wi Parata Te Kakakura and the justice he sought but never witnessed during his lifetime.

This letter is endorsed by the following people and groups:

Witi Ihimaera
Dame Anne Salmond (Distinguished Professor, Maori
Studies Department, Auckland University)
Dame Fiona Kidman
Sir James McNeish
Dr Paul Moon (Professor of History, AUT)
Bill Manhire
Damien Wilkins (Director, International Institute of
Modern Letters)
Vincent O’Sullivan
Gregory O’Brien
Jenny Bornholdt
Jim Moriarty
Helen Pearse-Otene
Hone Kouka
Miria George
Maarire Brunning-Kouka
Elizabeth Knox
Emily Perkins
Hinemoana Baker

ENDS

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