The Waitangi Tribunal hearings which ended yesterday after seven long years are a chance to finally move beyond victimhood, a hapu leader says.
Last week the Crown made its closing submissions in Te Paparahi o Te Raki, the inquiry into Ngapuhi's 600-plus treaty claims. The claimants had their final say in July.
Ngapuhi is the last of the major iwi to complete its treaty hearings. It is also New Zealand's biggest tribe, hence an inquiry which has required hundreds of witnesses, 31 weeks of hearings and 500,000-plus pages of evidence.
Among the claimants listening to the Crown last week was Ngati Manu leader Arapeta Hamilton, who said all his hapu's land and resources had been taken.
"So we have been listening intently to the Crown as it side-stepped issues relating to Ngati Manu's loss of resources ... We've not been happy with all their responses."
The Crown had, however, conceded the hapu's loss of land at Te Wahapu, across the water from Opua, had been a breach of the treaty.
When the government released Ngati Manu chief Pomare II, imprisoned after the Battle of Kororareka in 1845, they made him sign away his land at Te Wahapu, Opua and Okiato. As well as the loss of land the hapu would not forget the indignity imposed on their ancestor.
Mr Hamilton said the tribunal's report would be a springboard for settling Ngati Manu's claims, like the stage one report that found Ngapuhi chiefs did not cede sovereignty when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi.
"The tribunal, more than the Crown, has listened to what we've said. We have faith they will produce a document that will enable us to settle our grievances and move forward, out of the state of victimhood into a more progressive, enlightened people. We've been victims for too long," he said.
Even if settlement brought "not a brass razoo", the process had reinvigorated the hapu by mobilising its members, allowing them to share information, and acknowledging their grievances.
"Colonisation left us not knowing who we were. This has helped us know our whakapapa and how we connect with one another."
Rudy Taylor, co-chair of the Kotahitanga group which pushed for a full treaty claim process, said the important thing now was for hapu to stick together and ensure that mana returned to hapu and whanau, not to a Crown-created structure.
"It's been a long time, we've lost some good people along the way. It's sad that they are not here to listen to the final stages."
Tavake Barron Afeaki, a lawyer acting for descendants of chief Te Kemara, praised the tribunal's judges and historians.
"They are fully engaged with the Crown lawyers and really holding them to task. They want to make a fully informed decision."
He was hopeful a settlement would be reached but said the government had to give up its "top-down" approach.
"The Crown has to engage with hapu, it can't just engage with its own hegemonic entities," he said.
The first week of hearings was held at Te Tii Marae, Waitangi, in May 2010. The 31st and final week was held at Waitaha conference centre, also at Waitangi, last week. No date has been set for the release of the tribunal report.