The process of settling Crown breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi was initially fraught with controversy, but has now become an accepted and at times celebrated part of our identity. Nearly 30 years since the first settlement, many Māori groups have seen spectacular commercial success, but many questions remain. Michael Neilson reports.
When Ngāi Tahu settled its claim in 1998, it brought an end to a seven generation struggle.
In 20 years from 1844, four years after signing the Treaty of Waitangi, Ngāi Tahu sold off some 34.5 million acres (13,961,654ha), or about 80 per cent of Te Waipounamu/South Island, to the Crown.
But the Crown failed to honour its part of those contracts, which included allocating one-tenth of the land as reserves, and also to pay a fair price.
The iwi was essentially shut out of the land-based economy alongside the settlers, becoming an impoverished and virtually landless tribe.
"The Waitangi Tribunal later called those Crown actions 'unconscionable fraud'," said Tā Tipene O'Regan, long-time chair of Ngāi Tahu Trust Board.
O'Regan was the chief negotiator when finally, seven generations later, the iwi signed its deed of settlement in 1997.
When passed into law in 1998, it provided $170m in redress, which the iwi has grown to nearly $2b, and is using to reinvest in its people and culture.
"Now we have many people, young people, enthusiastically pursuing the many dimensions of the iwi. It gives me great joy, for when I was starting out, it was a very lonely period," Tipene said.
"We see ourselves now as part of the future aspirations of New Zealand, because for generations before, we felt locked out of that dream."
The largest of the Crown purchases came in 1848, commonly referred to as Kemp's Deed, covering 13,551,400 acres of land for £2000.
Despite a directive from the Crown to the purchaser to "reserve to the natives ample portions of land for their present and prospective wants", just 6359 acres (2573ha) was set aside for the iwi.
The sale also included the provision of schools and hospitals, and the Crown promised all of the Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai areas would be set aside for them, but these never eventuated.
Overall the Crown undertook to set aside adequate reserves to have been approximately 10 per cent of the 34.5 million acres sold – but this was never done.
The seven generation struggle
Ngāi Tahu made its first claim against the Crown for breach of contract in 1849, and in the nearly century and a half that followed consistently challenged successive governments to hold up their end of the deals.
"Grievance had become our culture, we did not know how to be without it," O'Regan said.
Without any form of legal aid iwi members were mortgaging their homes and seeking loans to finance the cause.
O'Regan was on the Ngāi Tahu Trust Board for 22 years, the final 13 as chair in the lead up to the 1998 settlement.
By 1989 however, the Ngāi Tahu Māori Trust Board was nearly broke from funding Waitangi Tribunal hearings.
Banks were then refusing to lend them money, for political reasons, said Tipene.
In the end it was a Japanese businessman and philanthropist, Masashi Yamada, whose donation enabled them to complete negotiations for the Ngāi Tahu settlement. Years later yet another contribution led to the establishment of the Ngāi Tahu Mātauranga Trust.
In its 1991 report the Waitangi Tribunal said in acquiring those 34.5 million acres, more than half the land mass of New Zealand for £14,750 pounds, and leaving Ngāi Tahu with 35,757 acres, the Crown "acted unconscionably and in repeated breach of the Treaty of Waitangi".
"As a consequence, Ngāi Tahu has suffered grave injustices over more than 140 years. The tribe is clearly entitled to very substantial redress from the Crown."
Refugees in their own land
By the early 1900s, fewer than 2000 Ngāi Tahu remained alive in their own land.
O'Regan's daughter Hana, general manager of oranga (welfare) at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, said the impact on their people had been "devastating".
"The loss of that land and access to mahinga kai meant we lost the ability to live, to feed our communities."
While Ngāi Tahu did not suffer raupatu or confiscations, as in the north, the Crown's actions had deprived five generations of the tribe of virtually all the land and resources required to survive at anything other than subsistence level.
"We became refugees in our own land," she said.
"People who had been in permanent settlements, who had businesses and enterprises even, were being moved from their homes, into piecemeal reserves where there was not enough to look after themselves. Within years people were dying of starvation."
Communities were broken up, cultural cohesion lost and within a couple of generations the reo too.
"It was a process of cultural cleansing, trying to wipe us from the landscape and to justify those injustices.
"Quickly there were generations of New Zealanders who did not know who we were."
In its 1998 settlement Ngāi Tahu received cultural redress, tribal redress, an apology from the Crown, acknowledgement of the role of taonga Aoraki, $170m redress and the ability to purchase property from the Crown.
Its settlement, like that of Waikato-Tainui, included a relativity mechanism, meaning their redress was a percentage of the then $1b fiscal envelope.
Since that figure was eclipsed in 2012, both iwi can request payment every five years to ensure the real value of their settlements remain at 17 per cent (Waikato-Tainui) and 16.1 per cent (Ngāi Tahu) of the total.
As of 2018 Ngāi Tahu had received a top-up of $297.4m.
This redress has allowed the iwi to establish itself as an economic powerhouse within the South Island, with interests spanning fishing, tourism, property as well as a diversified equities portfolio, all of which are managed through Ngāi Tahu Holdings Ltd.
In the 20 years since settlement, Ngāi Tahu has seen its assets grown more than 10 fold to $1.924b, as of last year.
The 2018 financial year saw net profits of $150m, allowing $61m to be distributed to various initiatives, and through educational and wellbeing grants.
Whai Rawa, a savings fund set up by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu in 2006, grew to $72.3m in 2018, an increase of nearly $10m on the previous year.
The iwi also had a strong focus on boosting education. Every 5-year-old received a school starter pack to help them on their education journey, and in 2018 Ngāi Tahu spent over half a million dollars on scholarships.
Hana O'Regan said the post-settlement landscape had allowed the iwi to not only once again be a major player in the economy, but perform its cultural duties of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga.
"It is fair to say now people know we are not going anywhere, and there is a genuine interest in dealing with us."
This role was evident following the Christchurch earthquakes, when Ngāi Tahu partnered with CERA and to lead the Iwi Māori Recovery Programme.
After the Kaikoura earthquakes, Takahanga Marae served more than 10,000 meals, while Ngāi Tahu Tourism helicopters assisted stranded locals.
And following the mosque attacks in March, again the iwi opened the doors of its marae across the region for those seeking shelter and wanting a place to mourn.
They were also intricately involved, alongside the Christchurch City Council and the Government, in the day of mourning a week after the attacks.
In those past 20 years too the iwi has sought to regain its cultural identity.
"At the time of signing the settlement, Dad said if we don't support our language and culture, don't become culturally Ngāi Tahu again, all of this is of no benefit. All we are is a business."
The rūnanga has set about rebuilding marae across the rohe as cultural hubs for its people, supporting reo programmes, environment initiatives and support for kaumatua (elderly).
"Those language and cultural initiatives are an important part of rebuilding who we are."
It also ran a 20-day Aoraki Bound programme, based on Outward Bound, designed to reconnect rangatahi with their culture.
University of Canterbury's Dr Martin Fisher, a lecturer at the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre, said the settlement, like all settlements, had been estimated as less than 1 per cent of the value of the assets that were improperly acquired.
The "prairie value" alone, value of the land based on its original state, of the 34.5m acres was estimated to be worth $13b in the early 1990s.
However, despite the much smaller settlement, Fisher said they had vastly increased their economic and political power in the region and country.
"They really have come a long way, from feeling as they put it, 'dead and out of the way', to now where they have vastly increased their economic and political power and are regarded as a force to be reckoned with."
Iwi member Mananui Ramsden, of hapū Kāti Huikai, was born in Western Australia but at the age of 8 his parents decided to move him and his sister to Canterbury.
It was a conscious decision, so they could reconnect with their father's whakapapa.
"My Pākehā friends would be at home, playing video games, but I'd have no choice, I'd be at hui with my dad, soaking it in.
"I became heavily immersed in kapahaka, māhinga kai, te reo, and just being a whānau and hapū."
Now 31, Ramsden puts that knowledge into his work as a cultural land management advisor for Environment Canterbury - the world's first ever council-appointed advisor on indigenous land management.
His role is to assist the roughly 350 farmers in and around Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) on their farm management plans, with a cultural element.
He saw his work as "decolonising" the farming community.
"Most of them just don't know the history. When they learn about the land losses and the impacts they had it is quite emotional.
"They also don't know how similar we are. We were the first farmers, kaitiaki like them of the land, for future generations. We just have slightly different views on resource use, which is why I am there."
Ramsden said he owed a lot of what he has today to his tūpuna.
"Ngāi Tahu youth are more empowered today. I can have a Māori name and not be frowned upon, speak my reo proudly, know my whakapapa.
"Those are fundamental human rights, but the reality is generations of our people did not have them.
"Every person who worked on those claims has played a role in giving me the tools I have, to thrive."
Ngāi Tahu had created a safe space for members disconnected for generations to reconnect, Ramsden said.
"I know a family that went four generations without the reo being spoken, and now have brought it back. As recently as the 1950s my father was being strapped at school for speaking Māori."
As an informed and active iwi and hapū member, Ramsden said he saw the future as about hapū empowerment.
"It took seven generations to get in front of the right people, and two decades on we have reached a point where our ability in te ao hurihuri, the new age, has never been greater.
"I think the future perhaps is of less central iwi, and more whānau and hapū empowerment, mana motuhake and rangatiratanga, in a meaningful way."
Monday: Iwi power: $2.4b from 30 years of Treaty of Waitangi settlements
Tuesday: Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei: The $1b hapū in the heart of the super city / Waikato-Tainui: The $1.4b iwi
Thursday: Ngāti Porou: A loyal iwi seeking to transform its community
Friday: Ngāpuhi: The bright future that beckons