Signing Of Historic Deed Of Settlement With The Crown
On 14 February 2020, Moriori will sign an historic deed of settlement with the Crown. Moriori first petitioned the Crown in July 1862 for restoration of their land rights and release from slavery. It has taken 158 years but at last Moriori will receive a semblance of justice that they had asked for all those years ago. Importantly, the settlement will see the return of Crown owned land on both Rēkohu (Chathams Island) and Rangihaute (Pitt Island) to Moriori as cultural redress along with protection of their wāhi tchap’ (sacred places) over extensive areas of Crown owned DOC reserves. As chief negotiator for Moriori, Maui Solomon has said, “Moriori were left virtually landless on our own Islands so to have Crown owned land returned is highly significant. Also significant is to have our karāpuna’s (ancestors) places of rest protected to the fullest extent possible.”
Other parts of the settlement include financial redress of $18m, return of 50% of the title to Te Whanga Moana as shared redress, joint management of some DOC reserves, high level overlay classifications recognising our strong relationships with significant island landscapes, new customary fisheries regulations for the Chathams, a formal role in the management of natural resources for the Islands, restoration of traditional Moriori place names including the original name ‘Rēkohu’ (meaning ‘misty sun’) for the main Island, and a couple of commercial properties.
One of the most significant aspects of the settlement is the agreed historical account between Moriori and the Crown that will be made into law under the Moriori Settlement Bill to be introduced to Parliament later in the year. As stated by Mr Solomon, “It is hoped that the historic account will finally lay to rest the myths that have swirled around Moriori for the last 200 years, variously describing our people as weak, inferior and extinct. The truth is that Moriori made a conscious decision to set aside warfare and killing and to live in peace over 600 years ago. They adhered to this ancient law of peace even when their Island was invaded in 1835 and have maintained this unbroken covenant to the present day. This stance took great courage and strength. In doing so Moriori were never “conquered” as some have claimed but held onto their mana in accordance with tikane Moriori (Moriori customary law)” That was also upheld by the Waitangi Tribunal in its 2001 ‘Rekohu Report.’
The settlement provides Moriori an opportunity to move forward from this tragic episode in history and forge a new future on their Island home. The majority of Moriori descendants (thought to be as at least 6,000 people), live on mainland New Zealand and overseas. Opportunities will be created to assist people to return home by developing job and housing opportunities. Moriori will also continue to work hard to help the Island community grow and become more self-sustaining. As Mr Solomon has said, “What is in Moriori best interests is also in the Island’s best interests. A rising tide should float all boats. But we also have a huge responsibility to the majority of our people who live off the island and need to investigate ways to spread the benefits of the settlement among all of our people no matter where they live.” However, as added by Mr Solomon, “the size of the financial settlement will mean there will be inevitable limits to what can be done, especially in the short term.”