Hundreds to celebrate Bay Treaty deal at marae

By Doug Laing

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Hundreds are expected at a marae north of Napier next week for the signing of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement intended to put to rest a century and a half of grievance over the loss of vast tracts of Northern Hawke's Bay land in what historians have called the "forgotten confiscation".

The May 25 signing at Tangoio comes almost nine years to the day after the tribunal's Queen's Birthday Weekend 2004 release of a report on its Mohaka ki Ahuriri inquiry.

It involved a series of 1996-2000 hearings including the Mohaka/Waikare raupatu (land confiscation) complaints of Tangoio-based Maungaharuru Tangitu hapu - Ngati Kurumokihi, Marangatuhetaua (Ngati Tu), and Ngai Te Ruruku ki Tangoio.

It examined 20 claims, with issues in some cases dating back to Crown agent Donald McLean's Ahuriri purchase of 1851 and in the case of Maungaharuru Tangitu supported the need for redress over the principal grievance of land confiscations which began with a proclamation under the New Zealand Settlements Act in January 1867.

In September 2011, after the signing of a Maungaharuru Tangitu agreement in principle at Parliament, treaty negotiations minister Chris Finlayson conceded members of the hapu were "wrongfully detained following military engagement with the Crown" in 1866.

Following the detention, the hapu was subjected to extensive land confiscations in the Mohaka/Waikare area, and the reports identified significant and on-going loss and deprivation for the people.

There was evidence in the hearings that prior to the 1867 proclamation, McLean had already expressed concern about difficulties in acquiring land north of Napier in the Crown's buy-up of the region, much of which then ended up at purported bargain rates in the hands of a few, selected landowners.

A redress involving some land, addressing issues of cultural significance of the Maungaharuru Range and other land around Tutira, and a financial package worth $23 million, plus interest, was offered and has since been supported by a vote among members registered by the hapu.

"This agreement will help right the wrongs of the past and help hapu build strong futures," Mr Finlayson said in 2011, but recognised it would not "fully" compensate the hapu for what was taken.

The marae is planning day-long celebrations with powhiri for iwi groups from 8.30am, the welcome for Crown representatives and other guests from 10am, and an evening function in Napier for registered adult hapu.

Mr Finlayson will represent the Crown, while Hawke's Bay MPs Chris Tremain (Napier) and Craig Foss (Tukituki) will also be present, as will Maori Party MPs and leaders Tariana Turia and Dr Pita Sharples.

The claim will be just the second from the Mohaka ki Ahuriri package to be signed off, after the Raupunga-based Ngati Pahauwera's celebrations at Waipapa-a-Iwi, Mohaka, in December 2010.

Many of the claims in the package are linked by hapu or issues.

While the Crown has what Mr Finlayson calls an "aspirational target" of "settling all historical claims in a just and durable way" by 2014, numerous other claims in Hawke's Bay await hearing or settlement.

Among those unresolved is the Napier inner-harbour claim, one of the earliest lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal in 1988 by seven hapu mainly based around the shores of the once expansive inland waterway, Te Whanganui a Orotu.

In one of the earliest claims to the tribunal and heard in 1993-94, issues stemmed from harbour-board reclamation which started in the 1870s, facilitating Napier's development. It has been protested ever since, because of beliefs the area of the large lagoon, significant to Maori food gathering, had been specifically excluded in the 1850s land sales.

A 1995 tribunal report in favour of the claimants was followed in 1998 by a "remedies" report partly sparked by claimant concerns over Crown delays in initiating settlement negotiation.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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