The key Maori claims

CENTRAL NORTH ISLAND

Central North island, formerly the Volcanic Interior Plateau, claim Wai 791.

An umbrella claim against the Crown over long delays and failure to settle around 160 individual claims. These include calls for the return of seven forests with lakes, rivers and waterways.

Significance

A settlement is on the horizon. Its estimated value of $500 million will be the biggest so far.

The seven forests include the country's largest, Kaingaroa, worth $170 million, a vast tract of land running almost from Rotorua to Taupo. The claim includes Rotorua, the Bay of Plenty, Taupo, Kaingaroa and Murupara.

What it's about

The claims span a number of serious grievances, from the unfair purchase of land at unfair prices, the alienation of the geothermal resource from Maori ownership and control, the unfair use of statutes such as the Public Works Act and the Reserves Act - and the lasting damage done to the area's Maori through treaty breaches.

Who it's by

Te Arawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Manawa, Ngati Whare, Tuhoe - five tribal groupings represent around a third of all Maori.

What the tribes say

The settlement will help local iwi with their economic and social development and become a force in the future.

They predict they will become major players, working with central and local government and business.

Stephen Asher, secretary of the Volcanic Interior Plateau project, says that although Maori would not get all that they wanted, it would mean at least some of the land would return to the rightful owners.

"The settlement of the claims just in respect of the seven central North Island forests will mean the land ownership will pass to the CNI [Central North Island] iwi and hapu, so they will become landowners and landlords and be faced with the responsibility for managing those assets and those resources.

"The benefit they get just from the annual rentals alone will create opportunities for them to build their own businesses, education, health."

Where it's at

The process has been fast-tracked. Claimants are now seeking mandates from hapu for negotiations to begin with the Crown.

The deadline for this is mid-October and it is hoped the claim will be settled by October 2005.


FLORA AND FAUNA

Flora and fauna, Wai 262. Maori say all rights relating to native plants and animals belong to them. But the claim is much bigger than this. Incorporated are claims that the protection the treaty gave to cultural knowledge and land as taonga [treasures] has been breached, and more.

Significance

Potentially enormous. Some Maori call this the "grandfather" of all other claims. It gets to the heart of being Maori, it is about the right to be Maori.

What it's about

Ngati Kahungunu lawyer Grant Powell uses rivers in Hawkes Bay - where farming and crops have progressively lowered the water table - as an example to explain the loss of knowledge and identity.

At one level the river is a habitat with fish, eels, whitebait. When the river floods, it waters the native plants on its banks. Tampering with the river affects the knowledge associated with the habitat - such as eels. There are whole teachings associated with eels. If the eels die, the knowledge of how and where to catch them is lost, if the flax that grows on the bank is affected, the knowledge of weaving cannot be passed on. All this affects the identity of the people.

The claim also looks at legislation and how it has regulated the way in which Maori interact with society, the way they have been colonised and the way that their traditions have come under attack - such as the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907 which banned traditional healers from practising. A consequence was the loss of much traditional medicinal knowledge.

Who it's by

Six tribes, from the Far North to the Far South, are working together. They are Te Rarawa, Ngati Kuri, Ngati Koata, Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Wai.

What the tribes say

For Tama Poata of Ngati Porou, it boils down to the essence of the Maori version of Treaty of Waitangi which allowed the British to govern their own people and their own lands - "it [the Government] overstepped the mark the day it began to make laws which impinged on all Maori rights."

Where it's at

The last hearing took place in the middle of last year, but Crown evidence and that of as-yet-undefined third parties has yet to be heard.

Progress has also been hampered by the illness of a member of the tribunal.


OIL AND GAS

Oil and gas reserves, Wai 852. Maori want a share of the royalties from gas and oil reserves in their areas, claiming the Crown breached the treaty when it nationalised oil and gas resources in 1937.

Significance

The Waitangi Tribunal ruled in May that although oil and gas are not taonga they are included in the value of land wrongfully taken and said the Government should offer compensation. The Government has refused to accept the recommendations.

What it's about

Maori say it is about a recognition of the ownership of the land, not the resource itself. The Crown had argued that all New Zealanders lost their rights to the resource in 1937 and that Maori and Pakeha were affected equally.

But in Taranaki, 90 per cent of Maori land had been confiscated by 1937 and the tribunal said the expropriation of such an extremely valuable resource hit them much harder.

Who it's by

Nga Ruahine of Taranaki and Ngati Kahungunu of Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.

What the tribes say

Daisy Noble, spokeswoman for Nga Hapu O Nga Ruahine, said this claim was not motivated by getting a cut of the billions of dollars of profits from petroleum. It was not a contemporary claim but part of historical grievances.

The Crown's contention that people owned only the top six inches of the earth and it owned the rest was way off, she said.

"Our dead are buried six feet under - are you telling me the Crown owns them?"

Where it's at

Another one that will not go away, especially given the tribunal's finding. The tribes will look for other avenues to put pressure on the Crown. Right now they are awaiting the outcome of the foreshore and seabed case before deciding their next move.


HAURAKI

Hauraki, Wai 686. The key claim is the loss of around 324,000ha - but it also includes claims to multimillion-dollar reserves of gold and other minerals, plus vast areas of foreshore and seabed.

Significance

The claim includes the entire Coromandel Peninsula and offshore islands, the Piako plains, parts of the Firth of Thames and Waiheke Island, and is the first claim to deal with the issue of gold. It is also the first to look at the Waikato land confiscations and the war [the main Waikato land claim was settled without hearings]. It looks in detail at the processes of the Native Land Court.

What it's about

There is virtually no land left to Maori ownership as a result of 150 years of colonisation.

Who it's by

A federation of 12 tribes from the Hauraki area.

Where it's at

The original claim was lodged in the early 1990s and the hearings finished in November last year. The tribunal's report is still months, if not years away.


WAHI TAPU

Between the Hokianga in the Far North and Northern Kaipara, Wai 38, a claim centring on wahi tapu [sacred places]. It includes Waipoua Forest, the Maunganui block, Lake Taharoa and the Waimamaku Valley.

What it's about

Buried deep in the forest and along the coast are numerous wahi tapu, some of them evidence of early settlement. Waipoua Forest - home of the more than 2000-year-old kauri Tane Mahuta, is an important, spiritual place to local iwi Te Roroa who see themselves as the kaitiaki, the guardians, of the wahi tapu.

The claim is about the violation of wahi tapu [sacred places] and the fact that huge areas of land which should have been reserved from sale were not.

Significance

The claim was hugely controversial because a number of wahi tapu were in private ownership at the time. The tribunal recommended in 1992 all the land which should have been set aside from the Crown purchases be returned to Te Roroa.

Who it's by

Te Roroa.

Where it's at

The Crown bought some land and returned it, but 11 years later, negotiations are continuing for settlement, including the return of wahi tapu.

Herald feature: Maori issues

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