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Waitangi Tribunal releases its report on Whanganui claims

Waitangi Tribunal

Media Statement 22 October 2015 – Embargoed till 12 noon today

Waitangi Tribunal releases its report on Whanganui claims

The Waitangi Tribunal today released He Whiritaunoka: The Whanganui Land Report, in which the Tribunal reports to the Crown on 83 claims of hapū and iwi of the Whanganui inquiry district. Finding that the claims were largely well-founded, the Tribunal concluded that, since 1840, the Crown has caused Māori in Whanganui substantial harm through a multitude of policies, laws, decisions, acts, and omissions.

The report, which focuses on the relationship between the tangata whenua of Whanganui and their land, follows on from the Tribunal’s Whanganui River report of 1999, on which the Crown and claimants reached a settlement last year.

In her letter accompanying the report, Presiding Officer Judge Carrie Wainwright said: “it should not come as a surprise that the process of colonisation in Whanganui did not evolve in a way that was consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi, and especially the guarantee of te tino rangatiratanga in the Māori text. But the Crown also fell short of the standards of justice and fair dealing that flowed from the Magna Carta, and which British officials acknowledged independently of the Treaty”.

The Tribunal found that a prime example was the long-drawn-out purchase during the 1840s of the Whanganui block. The Crown surreptitiously acquired twice as much land as it purported to be acquiring, but without increasing the price, and limiting the number of reserves to be set aside for ongoing Māori use. In later purchases the Crown was less blatantly deceptive, but nevertheless the purchase of the Waimarino block – one of the largest North Island acquisitions in the nineteenth century – was a truly shoddy affair: hurried, penny-pinching, and involving the illegal purchase of children’s interests.

By 1900, the Tribunal found, Māori in Whanganui retained only a third of their land. Ignoring the warnings of the Stout-Ngata Commission against further purchases, the Crown steamed ahead with its own land purchases, and allowed extensive private purchasing. Today, just www.waitangitribunal.govt.nz 2

237,000 acres, about eleven per cent of the district, remain in Māori ownership.

The Tribunal urged the government to enter into a settlement that supports the aspirations of the hapū and iwi of Whanganui for economic and cultural revitalisation. This in turn would have the effect of stimulating economic growth in the Whanganui region.

The Tribunal likewise encouraged the Crown to give Whanganui Māori greater involvement in local government and more control over matters that affect them, and to work with claimants and local authorities to solve the numerous longstanding problems detailed in the Tribunal's report. Of these local issues, public works takings of Māori land were among the most-resented acts of central and local authorities.

One of the report’s key findings was that the Crown acquired the land that makes up the Whanganui National Park unjustly and in breach of Treaty principles. The Tribunal recommended the return to tangata whenua of title to land in the park, and a substantial management role for them.

The Tribunal also made recommendations in relation to the spelling of te reo Māori place names. As regards Whanganui, it concluded that tangata whenua should control their own language, and specifically the spelling of names in their rohe (tribal area). The Tribunal recommended the Crown overturn a recent decision that authorised both ‘Wanganui’ and ‘Whanganui’ as legitimate spellings. In the claimants’ view it is ‘Whanganui’, and the Crown should respect their preference.

Whanganui_Whenua_letter_of_transmittal.pdf

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