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Te Kāhui Maunga: The National Park District Inquiry Report

Te Kāhui Maunga: The National Park District Inquiry Report

Report Summary

The Waitangi Tribunal’s three-volume Te Kāhui Maunga: The National Park District Inquiry Report covers 41 claims spanning the area of Tongariro National Park and selected lands surrounding the park. The Tribunal refers to the people whose claims it heard as ngā iwi o te kāhui maunga. This name acknowledges their close whakapapa ties to one another and to the chiefly cluster of mountains: te kāhui maunga, which include Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe, Ruapehu, Pīhanga, Hauhungatahi, and Kakaramea and which dominate the inquiry’s landscape.

The Tribunal panel for the inquiry was made up of Waitangi Tribunal chairperson Chief Judge Wilson Isaac, the Honourable Sir Douglas Kidd, Professor Sir Hirini Mead, and Dr Monty Soutar. The panel convened 10 hearings between February 2006 and July 2007.

The claims of nga iwi o te kāhui maunga concerned two issues above all: the establishment and management of Tongariro National Park and the creation and operation of the Tongariro power development scheme. In his letter of transmittal that accompanied the final report, released on 12 November 2013, Chief Judge Isaac said that ‘Both of these matters are of national importance and are at the heart of the inquiry’.

The Tribunal found that it was a myth that Horonuku Te Heuheu made a noble gift to the Crown of the peaks of Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe, and Ruapehu. Rather, it found that Ngāti Tūwharetoa made a tuku of their sacred mountains, inviting the Crown to share their taonga as joint owners and trustees. Ngāti Tūwharetoa wanted to work with the Crown, to protect the mountains forever.

The Tribunal found that the Crown did not honour the partnership intended by Horonuku Te Heuheu. Instead, it took the title to the mountains for itself, and established the national park without properly consulting ngā iwi o te kāhui maunga. The Tribunal found that the Tongariro National Park Act 1894 as a whole failed to meet the legitimate expectations of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and was a clear breach of Treaty principles.

The Crown gave no recognition to the interests of Whanganui iwi. The Tribunal found that the Crown ‘effectively confiscated’ lands in which Whanganui and Ngāti Rangi had interests, which included sacred places such as Te Waiamoe – the crater lake on Mount Ruapehu – and Te Ara-ki-Paretetaitonga – the main peak of Mount Ruapehu.

For more than a century now, the Crown has not enabled ngā iwi o te kāhui maunga to exercise their rangatiratanga – their authority – over the park.

The Tribunal found that these actions of the Crown have breached the Treaty principles of reciprocity and good faith and the Crown’s duty of active protection.

The Tribunal recommended that the Crown honour its Treaty obligations and restore the partnership intended by the 1887 tuku by making a new partnership arrangement for the national park. Under this partnership arrangement, Tongariro National Park would be made inalienable, removed from Crown ownership, and taken out of the control of the Department of Conservation. The park would then be held jointly by the Crown and by ngā iwi o te kāhui maunga under a new Act and in a new title. The park would also be managed jointly by a statutory authority comprising representatives from the Crown and ngā iwi o te kāhui maunga.

The second matter at the heart of the claims before the Tribunal was the Tongariro power development scheme, which diverts water from the Whanganui and Tongariro River systems into Lake Rotoaira and releases it downstream to generate electricity.

The Tribunal found that the waterways diverted by the scheme are taonga of great importance to ngā iwi o te kāhui maunga, which never knowingly and willingly gave up possession and control of their waterways. The Tribunal found that the iwi retain development rights in those waterways and that they are entitled to compensation for the past and present use of their taonga to generate electricity, particularly in the case of Lake Rotoaira.

When the Crown set up the Tongariro power development scheme, it met only with Ngāti Tūwharetoa. It did not consult the trustees who administer Lake Rotoaira (which is critical to the scheme) or Whanganui iwi. Because of these failures to consult, the Tribunal found that the Crown did not act honourably, fairly, or reasonably when it established the scheme.

The Tongariro power development scheme has meant losses in water quality, habitat, and kai. Lake Rotoaira, which is a significant taonga of ngā iwi o te kahui maunga, has suffered irreversible damage. Yet, the Crown did not compensate the lake’s owners for the use of their lake for storage or for the impacts of the scheme.

The Tribunal made particular findings about the Crown’s 1972 agreement with the trustees of Lake Rotoaira. Under that agreement, Māori retained title to the lake bed, but the owners had to surrender control of the lake for electricity generation, without compensation. The Tribunal considered that Ngāti Tūwharetoa signed this deed because the Crown both kept them in the dark about the true environmental effects of the Tongariro power development scheme on their lake and fuelled fears that it would take the lake. The Tribunal found that the Crown breached the principle of partnership and considered that it would be unconscionable for the Crown now to refuse to put aside the deed. The Tribunal also proposed a package of measures under which the Crown, local government, and ngā iwi o te kahui maunga might manage waterways together.

The Tribunal’s extensive report covered many other issues, including Crown laws and practices regarding the alienation of land, the operation of the Native Land Court, public works takings, land development, customary fisheries, waterways, and the geothermal resource.

Overall, the Tribunal noted that the Treaty principles of dealing fairly and with utmost good faith had been breached, that substantial restitution was due, and that the quantum should be settled by prompt negotiation.


Full report: Te Kāhui Maunga: The National Park District Inquiry Report


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