Crown apology to Bay hapu in Treaty claim settlement

By Doug Laing of Hawke's Bay Today -
Dr Pita Sharples welcomes Sir Jerry Mateparae to Tangoio Marae. Photo / Warren Buckland
Dr Pita Sharples welcomes Sir Jerry Mateparae to Tangoio Marae. Photo / Warren Buckland

The Crown has made one of its most profound Treaty settlement apologies in redressing grievances of four Hawke's Bay hapu decimated by the military invasion of their marae almost 150 years ago.

The apologies were delivered by Minister of Treaty Settlements Chris Finlayson on Saturday at Tangoio Marae, the flood-prone land left in hapu hands after the killing of more than 20 people at Omarunui and Petane in 1866, the incarceration of at least 13 others, and the land confiscation that followed.

Reading the Crown acknowledgments and apologies was "not easy" he said as he prefaced the Maungaharuru Tangitu settlement, which was completed as dozens of hapu members crossed the mahau at the front of the whare Punanga Te Wao to place their names on the official record of the historic moment.

The Crown, he conceded, could never fully compensate for the injustices and the poverty which followed as the hapu became a landless people.

While those at the forefront of the latter-day battle for redress struggled with the overall outcome with varying emotions, there was consent that the settlement package of financial compensation and other amends might have an equal in the correcting of the historical account and the education to follow.

Among them was claim legal history researcher Dr Richard Boast, who recalled one day at Victoria University in 1989 when teenaged student and hapu member Tania Hopmans sat in his office and said she wanted to write and research "about a confiscation in Hawke's Bay I'd never heard of."

It was later Dr Boast who in his evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal in the mid 1990s would call the confiscation "a gross and unpardonable fraud," and on Saturday he indicated that after 24 years with the subject he's not finished.

"I hope we can turn it into a book," he said. "I think I already have a name for it. It would be: "Forgotten Raupatu."

It was two years after that campus initiative that eventual claim leader Bevan Taylor met Ms Hopmans for the first time.

"I'm your uncle," he said. She had to come back to Tangoio and he would call the meeting which led to the lodging of the claim by himself, the now late Joseph Teotane Reti and others.

It was heard as part of the Mohaka Ki Ahuriri casebook of 20 claims over the next few years, of which it is one of only two to reach the signing of a deed, or "kawenata."

Mr Finlayson, whose party on Saturday included adviser John Clarke, a member of the five-strong claim tribunal headed by Judge Wilson Isaac, related Crown Treaty of Waitangi breaches dating back to Crown agent Donald McLean's Ahuriri Purchase in 1851. The Crown failed to consult the hapu in the first stage of negotiations, sought the lowest price despite hapu discontent, did not provide the full, ongoing economic benefits expected if they accepted the purchase offer, and did not ensure adequate reserves of land were protected in hapu ownership.

The Crown accepted that in 1866 it issued an "unreasonable ultimatum" demanding the surrender of those at Omarunui, that the Crown killing of more than 20 people defending themselves at the pa and at Petane were an "injustice," as was the two-year incarceration of at least 13 hapu members in the Chatham Islands.

The raupatu issues stemmed from the 1867 proclamation of a confiscation district, which divested hapu of their land, and the Crown acknowledged consistent Treaty breaches in failing to have land repatriated to rightful owners, and to environmentally protect land, leading to "the poor health of Lake Tutira," pollution of the coastline, degradation and loss of important sites, and flooding in the area of the marae.

The Crown accepted responsibility for the "devastating impact" on the people's economic, social and cultural wellbeing and it contributed to "significant population losses," poverty, poor health and low educational standards.

The settlement comprises "cultural redress" including Te Pohue Domain, although it will remain run by the Hastings District Council and there will be no change for users, and four other reserves on a "vest and gift back" basis.

It also includes part of Opouahi Station, and the lakebeds of Opouahi, Tutira, Waikopiro and Orakai, agreement to restore historic names of 22 sites, and a $2 million payment "on-account" to relocate the marae from its storm zone, if suitable land is available and agreed.

Financial redress is set at $23 million, and the hapu will have the opportunity to purchase Esk Forest for $4.222 million.

Negotiations included the establishment of the entity to handle proceeds of the settlement, which now has almost 5000 registered members.

Mr Finlayson said the 62 per cent who voted was the second-highest for any of the 60-plus settlements achieved since 1990, and the 98 per cent who supported acceptance highlighted a will to move forward.

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