Waitangi Tribunal releases fourth part of Urewera report

By Kate Shuttleworth

Tuhoe were not opposed to the creation of Te Urewera National Park, but wanted to remain on the last lands in the heart of the park. Photo / APN
Tuhoe were not opposed to the creation of Te Urewera National Park, but wanted to remain on the last lands in the heart of the park. Photo / APN

The Waitangi Tribunal has released the fourth part of its report on claims in the Te Urewera district inquiry, examining how Maori communities fared in the 20th century when only fragments of their land remained.

In the 286-page report, released today, the tribunal says it has moved its investigation beyond the large-scale land alienation in Te Urewera.

The tribunal has examined the police action taken to arrest Rua Kenana, the Tuhoe spiritual leader, at Maungapohatu in April 1916.

It says the Crown admitted that its use of force at Maungapohatu was excessive and that it breached the treaty by not acting in a reasonable manner towards the Maungapohatu community.

The tribunal found the military-style action, which resulted in the deaths of two young men, had been rightly characterised as an invasion.

It found the Crown effectively destroyed "a functioning, vibrant community".

The report also looks at 20th century land development and the issues that have arisen as a result.

"A series of consolidation and development schemes were initiated with good intentions and delivered considerable benefits, but when the lands were returned they were encumbered with high levels of debt," the tribunal found.

The tribunal said the Crown also imposed timber milling restrictions throughout the period and its failure to compensate for those restrictions was a breach of Treaty principles.

"This was all the more telling for Maori communities in Te Urewera because the Crown's actions from land confiscation onwards had already given rise to a procession of Treaty breaches that cut their economic capacity to the bone," the report says.

In the third part of the report on the Te Urewera district claim released in October, the Crown found Tuhoe people became marginalised in their homeland.

It said claimants were unable to come to grips with laws made in 1896 to create a reserve for Tuhoe.

The land was stripped from them 30 years later when the Crown took much of it through aggressive buying.

Tuhoe were not opposed to the creation of Te Urewera National Park, but wanted to remain on the last lands in the heart of the park.

The park did not breach the Treaty of Waitangi, but the Tribunal found the alienation of 75 per cent of the Urewera Native Reserve mainly through ruthless Crown purchasing, on top of extensive land loss in the rest of the park, was in breach of the Treaty.

In September, the Crown and Ngai Tuhoe negotiators announced an agreement on a comprehensive deed of settlement regarding Tuhoe's claims over Urewera.

Both parties agreed that no one will own the land in the park, which will exist as a new separate legal entity under a power-sharing deal.

- APNZ

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