A $115 million Treaty settlement for Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki Nui-a-Rua has passed through Parliament, with all parties acknowledging the hara caused by the Crown for the lower North Island iwi.
The public gallery erupted into waiata as the settlement passed unanimously this afternoon.
As well as the $115m in financial redress, the settlement includes an agreed historical account, Crown acknowledgements and apology, as well as cultural and commercial redress.
It also includes the vesting of 27 sites of cultural significance, and the restoration of 30 sites to their original names.
Today, hundreds of whānau and descendants boarded a train from Dannevirke, picking up more as it made its way through the Wairarapa bound for Parliament to witness the settlement.
In opening the final debate, Treaty Settlements Minister Andrew Little said the first historical claims were made 33 years ago.
“Ngāti Kahungunu want to take back control of their destiny. The Crown is determined to be a better partner, to be a respected Treaty partner,” Little told the House.
The settlement passed despite last minute pleas from an affiliated group, Wairarapa Moana, and a Supreme Court judgement last week which complicated deliberations ahead of the final reading.
Wairarapa Moana had called for their claims over land in Waikato to be removed from the settlement, as its passing extinguishes the ability to take historical claims to the Waitangi Tribunal.
But in addressing Wairarapa Moana’s claim, Little said the Tribunal’s preliminary findings didn’t recommend the land be returned to Wairarapa, as its value was not proportionate to the prejudice suffered.
He also said he weighed the concerns and letters from Ngāti Kahungunu, Raukawa and Ngāti Tuwharetoa.
“Against that, I as minister have made a judgement about proceeding with the Bill,” Little said.
“And the reason I’ve made that judgement is because I, as minister representing the Crown, have to consider a whole variety of interests.”
The National Party’s Treaty settlements spokesperson, Joseph Mooney, said the party agonised over the Court ruling and appeals before deciding to support the settlement.
“We recognise the mamae that this does bring to Wairarapa Moana and it’s something we haven’t taken lightly,” Mooney said.
The Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere said her party supported the settlement, but was scathing of the Crown’s processes.
“They could have allowed that due process and natural justice in the time required to do that properly without affecting the settlement of this,” Kerekere said.
“That did not happen. In this world, the Crown has decided to extinguish the rights of Wairarapa Moana Pouakani.”
“So having said all of that, we are supporting this bill today because this is Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki Nui-a-Rua’s day.”
The historical account contained within the settlement details nearly two centuries of injustices, starting in 1845 when Ngāti Kahungunu were forced to cede tens of thousands of acres at Maungaroa under threat of Crown invasion.
Ngāti Kahungunu were then put under sustained pressure to sell their remaining land, with the state machinery forcing Māori to give up pastoral leases, through which they had sustained a thriving economy, and the Native Land Court dividing title.
In 1853, the government promised Ngāti Kahungunu that it would set up a fund with the profits made from land sales. This, it said, would provide education, health and economic benefits.
The fund never arrived, and neither did any benefits.
In 1896, to protect and preserve Wairarapa Moana, Ngāti Kahungunu gifted the lake to the Crown on the promise that it would create a reserve surrounding it. But this promise was also never fulfilled.
Today, they are virtually landless, and much of what they retain lacks legal or practicable access.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz