The Waitangi Tribunal has published its Te Urewera report into the claims of the Urewera region.
Although the report had previously been released in pre-publication parts on the Tribunal’s website, this is the first hard-copy publication of the extensive 4,182-page report.
The publication of the report is the culmination of a 30-year process of receiving claims, commissioning research, holding public hearings, and writing the report.
It also marks the end of the Tribunal’s formal inquiry into the Urewera claims. The report can be bought from publishers Legislation Direct.
The history of the relations of the peoples of Te Urewera – Tuhoe, Ngati Haka Patuheuheu, Ngati Whare, Ngati Manawa, Ngati Hineuru, Ngati Rangitihi, and Ngai Tamaterangi (Ngati Kahungunu) – with the Crown has been a profoundly unhappy one.
The claims that they brought before the Tribunal focused on issues that had long been a source of anger and bitterness.
These claims included the confiscation of much of the best Tuhoe lands in 1866 when they were caught up in a confiscation aimed at punishing not Tuhoe but those iwi that the Crown held responsible for the murder of the Reverend Carl Volkner.
The claims also concern the widespread military conflict with Crown forces in upper Wairoa, Waikaremoana, and the heart of Te Urewera from the mid-1860s through to the early 1870s, in which non-combatants were sometimes killed, and people were starved out of their villages, or driven from them, with wholesale destruction of kainga, crops, and taonga.
A deeply held grievance was the failure of the Crown to give real recognition to mana motuhake/tino rangatiratanga.
Premier Richard Seddon’s government finally engaged in negotiations with Te Urewera leaders and passed a law unique in our history, the Urewera District Native Reserve Act 1896, which granted the peoples of Te Urewera powers of self-government and collective tribal control of their lands.
Before long, the Tribunal found, the Crown presided over the collapse of the Urewera District Native Reserve, deliberately undermining the autonomy of the iwi and the protections the Act contained for tribal lands.
The Crown embarked on the aggressive purchase of thousands of small interests in reserve land blocks, and then in the 1920s it consolidated them into one vast block of Crown land in the centre of Te Urewera.
This was the land that would become Te Urewera National Park in the 1950s.
Tuhoe were marginalised in their homeland and denied the arterial roads and state-of-the-art land titles that the Crown had promised to assist their farming development.
Their resentment of the national park was huge. And, during the same period, the Crown refused to recognise the Maori Land Court’s award of title to the Maori owners of Lake Waikaremoana, a tribal taonga, while it exercised the rights of an owner itself. It developed hydro-electricity works, permanently lowered the level of the lake, and did not agree to lease the lake from its owners and pay for its use until 1971.
Some of the best known Te Urewera claims are those that have left the most painful memories.
The Waiohau fraud deprived Ngati Patuheuheu of 7,000 acres of their ancestral lands.
The Crown failed to protect an entire community, and in 1907 they were evicted from Te Houhi, their sacred sites, and their best farmland.
Nine years later, the community of Maungapohatu suffered invasion by an armed expedition of three contingents of police, who burst onto their marae to arrest their leader Rua Kenana for minor liquor supply offences and also (in time of war) on suspicion of sedition.
Two young Maori, one of them Rua’s younger son, were killed in a badly planned and brutal operation. After a lengthy trial, Rua was acquitted of all but one of the charges against him.
The 20th century experience of the peoples of Te Urewera was generally one of hardship, poverty, and lack of opportunity, relieved only somewhat by the impact of the welfare state and the forestry industry.
The Tribunal found that the poor socio-economic position of the peoples of Te Urewera over many decades was largely a prejudice arising from the Crown’s repeated Treaty breaches.
But their sense of betrayal by the Crown arose from its broken promises.