Ngati Ranginui days away from Treaty settlement

By John Cousins

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A milestone in the history of Tauranga Moana tribe Ngati Ranginui takes place this Thursday when hundreds gather on the deeply symbolic fields of a colonial-era battleground to mark the settlement of Treaty of Waitangi grievances.

Ngati Ranginui will become not only the first Tauranga iwi to settle with the Crown but its method of settlement will be a first for New Zealand.

It is a pan hapu settlement in which Ngati Ranginui's eight hapu come together under the umbrella of the iwi to settle their grievances with the Crown.

The June 21 signing takes place on the Pyes Pa battleground of Te Ranga on the exact day 148 years earlier that Maori forces were massacred in a surprise attack by colonial troops fresh from the humiliation of being defeated at the Battle of Gate Pa.

It ushered in huge land confiscations, widespread poverty, and the marginalisation of Ngati Ranginui hapu on their own lands. A 1936 survey of Maori housing in Tauranga found that one-third of the houses were unfit for human habitation.

The Crown's settlement for the misery it inflicted on hapu through breaches of the Treaty will see the payment of $38 million as financial compensation; the vesting of 51 Crown-owned land-banked properties as commercial compensation; and the return of 14 sites of cultural and spiritual significance involving 846 hectares of Department of Conservation land as cultural compensation.

Ngati Ranginui's rohe (district) encompassed the western side of the city and Tauranga Harbour environs including Te Puna and Katikati. The 2006 Census showed the estimated population of the iwi was 7647.

The 51 land-banked properties occupying 37.6ha were mainly in Tauranga but also included Te Puna, Katikati and the Kaimai Range.

They were mostly smaller residential properties. The biggest blocks were 13.6ha at 17 Moffat Rd, 5.7ha on Wairoa Rd, 4.6ha at 1514 State Highway 29, 3.4ha at 51-85 Millers Rd (Brookfield), 2.4ha at 48 Harrisfield Drive (Ohauiti), 2.3ha on Lochhead Rd (Te Puna), and 1.1ha in Peers Rd (Lower Kaimai).

The hapu will have first right of refusal to buy 117 Housing News Zealand properties for the next 170 years. Ngati Ranginui also receives the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's 710ha Puwhenua Forest at the northern end of the Mamaku Plateau - about 7km west of the Otanewainuku Forest behind Te Puke's No2 Rd.

The commercial redress included a gilt-edged investment opportunity to buy the land under the Tauranga Police Station in Monmouth St for $2.1 million. The iwi also has the option of buying the new police station once it is built.

Another investment for Ngati Ranginui was ownership of the 1.9ha Te Puna School site.

Ngati Ranginui will also receive first right of refusal on some of the surplus fish quota held by the Crown in the iwi's area of interest.

The background to the grievances included the impact of the colonial government's war in Tauranga during the 1860s and subsequent 20,200ha land confiscations, the "scorched earth" bush war campaign, native land laws, land development and the socio-economic impact of land loss.

The land returned to hapu from the settlement represented nearly 8 per cent of the area of land confiscated by the Crown following the Battle of Te Ranga in 1864.

The deed of settlement said that the Crown "deeply regretted" that its actions severed Ngati Ranginui hapu from their traditional lands, deprived them of opportunities for development, caused significant harm to the iwi's social and economic development, damaged their autonomy and ability to exercise customary rights and responsibilities, and marginalised them within their own rohe.

Pirirakau hapu negotiator Tommy Kapai Wilson said the process had brought together the hapu of Ngati Ranginui. "It was a profound bonus of the settlement journey."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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