Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

150 years of injustice redressed

Iwi leader Ngarimu Blair says Ngati Whatua can start restoring itself to the force it could have been. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Iwi leader Ngarimu Blair says Ngati Whatua can start restoring itself to the force it could have been. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A landmark Treaty of Waitangi bill has removed the final hurdle to Auckland iwi Ngati Whatua fulfilling its ancestors' vision and becoming an economic and social powerhouse, iwi leaders say.

The last step in a long-fought Treaty settlement was completed yesterday as the Ngati Whatua Orakei Claims Settlement Bill was passed into law amid emotion and some drama.

Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust chairman Grant Hawke collapsed in the public gallery at Parliament before the third reading began, and was being supervised in Wellington Hospital overnight.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the passing of the bill marked a historic day: "It provides some redress for some long-outstanding issues that have affected the way in which we go forward as Aucklanders."

Iwi members said they had ambitious plans for housing, education, conservation and the restoration of the Maori language in New Zealand's biggest city.

Iwi leader Ngarimu Blair said his tribe could now set about restoring itself to the force it would have been without Crown intervention over the past 150 years.

"The city was the worst thing for us, in terms of how rapidly we lost our land and how rapidly we were turned into labourers for the settler society, and then losing our language so quickly.

"Now that we have greater organisation, the city is the best thing for us. We have the best universities, the best companies in the country, the best opportunities for our young people.

"Our people aren't leaving for Australia in droves, they are staying on their ancestral lands in Auckland city. We can now take joy in the vision of our ancestors of establishing the city."

He said that without the land loss, Ngati Whatua would have the same income levels, education and health as "mainstream New Zealanders".

"But we would also speak our own language and sing our songs - that's where we should have been today."

Mr Blair noted that the iwi had amassed more than $500 million in assets despite historical injustices, and the main value of the settlement was in providing closure.

The Treaty claim covered the loss of 32,000ha in the Tamaki isthmus, parts of the North Shore and West Auckland, the seabed, foreshore and reclamations in the Waitemata Harbour and northern parts of the Manukau Harbour.

These were key gardens, fishing grounds and settlements for the iwi when the Treaty was signed in 1840.

The settlement granted iwi around 60ha, $18 million in cash, a Crown apology and an agreed historical account of the events affecting Ngati Whatua.

About $16 million will be used to help pay for a $120 million naval site on the North Shore. Mr Blair said the iwi would lease the land to the Defence Force for the next 150 years. If the navy moved from the site locals would be consulted about its future.

The public gallery at Parliament was nearly full for the final reading of the bill yesterday.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson told Parliament the bill provided important redress and acknowledgment of the wrongs enacted by the Crown.

"The short story is that the relationship between Ngati Whatua and the Crown failed to live up to its promise. Within two decades [of signing the Treaty of Waitangi], Ngati Whatua were rendered virtually landless.

"With landlessness came poverty and marginalisation within the growing settler community in Tamaki."

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said the passing of the legislation marked the end of a long, courageous journey by the iwi to settle its grievances.

Much of the third reading was spent recounting the importance of the Bastion Point protest in 1978, when Ngati Whatua occupied their ancestral land, owned by the Crown, for 507 days.

Labour MP Louisa Wall tearfully remembered the death of 9-year-old Joanne Hawke in a fire during the occupation, as her uncle and parents watched from the public gallery.

Historic day

What did Ngati Whatua lose?
* 32,000ha in the Tamaki isthmus, parts of the North Shore and West Auckland, the seabed, foreshore and reclamations in the Waitemata Harbour and northern parts of the Manukau Harbour.

What does the iwi get?
* Crown apology.
* Agreed historical account.
* $18 million ($2 million already received).
* Right to purchase 3.2ha at Narrowneck, North Shore.
* 24ha in 4 blocks in the North Shore.
* Right to purchase property at Owens Rd, Epsom.
* Return of 33ha at Purewa Creek.
* Guardianship of Kauri Pt.

What they said

"Our story is now officially recognised. How we gifted Auckland, how we lost Auckland, and now our renaissance." - Ngarimu Blair, Ngati Whatua leader

"It's on days like today when you see kuia, koroua, mokopuna heading into these buildings, you know behind these people walk their tupuna. In front of these people walk their future generations. And alongside these people today stands the Crown." - Pita Sharples, Maori Party co-leader

"Ngati Whatua ki Orakei - today, in honour of those who have passed on, and those of you who are left to carry on the struggle, today we thank you, today we honour you, and today we wish you strength for the many years to come. - Mana leader Hone Harawira

- NZ Herald

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