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.
An airport hotel might seem an odd place to meet the head of one of the country's most powerful iwi, Waikato-Tainui.
Perhaps the famed Tūrangawaewae Marae, or on the banks of the sacred awa Waikato, would seem more appropriate.
But not only had Rukumoana Schaafhausen, chair of iwi executive council Te Arataura, had a 12-hour-day of back-to-back meetings there, but this four-star Novotel Tainui Auckland Airport Hotel was owned by the iwi.
The tukutuku panels and menu proudly sporting Māori translations were obvious clues once inside, but Schaafhausen said it was not all about culture.
"This is a big money-maker," Schaafhausen said.
So much so the iwi has plans to build a five-star Te Arikinui Pullman hotel nearby, also in partnership with Auckland Airport.
After some initial financial stumbles, including purchasing the Warriors, and nearing bankruptcy in 2000, following its groundbreaking $170 million settlement in 1995, the iwi has become an economic powerhouse in every sense of the word.
The numbers, $1.3 billion in assets, and annual returns of between 4 and 12 per cent, speak for themselves.
Its investments are primarily in property, including The Base shopping centre, but it also holds shares in Waikato Milking Systems, Go Bus and various Auckland and Hamilton-based hotels.
The iwi's financial arm, Tainui Group Holdings, is behind a mammoth dry port, Ruakura, and is also working with local authorities and government departments on the Auckland-Hamilton corridor.
Influence beyond iwi
Schaafhausen said since that 1995 settlement the iwi had seen its influence grow not only within its community, but also in the wider region, and country.
If businesses, councils, or even the Government, wanted to do something in Waikato, they spoke to the iwi.
"We see investments like developing the Auckland-Hamilton corridor, not just as a piece of infrastructure, but an enabler for our people, and the wider region.
"We have 40-plus marae adjacent to that highway, so it could unlock a lot of opportunities."
Schaafhausen said part of those initial financial hurdles was the iwi finding its feet in a new commercial environment, but also simply being a Māori entity forced into a Pākehā, corporate framework.
"Like many iwi we inherited a structure that, for the most part, was prescribed by the Crown, to have the commercial separate from the social and environmental. But for us, those are inextricably linked.
"We see money as the enabler to advance social, culture and environmental wellbeing."
Now the iwi had grown its wealth it was turning to distributing and empowering its people, Schaafhausen said.
In 2018, Waikato-Tainui distributed $21m to its beneficiaries, about $10m more than in 2017, supporting various cultural, social, environmental and tribal wealth (marae dividend) programmes and initiatives.
The iwi has also made grand investments in restoring its awa, Waikato, handed back through the 2008 settlement in a "severely degraded" form, as part of a 100-year, $210m plan developed with the Waikato Regional Council and various government departments.
The iwi's 68 marae receive annual dividends, which they have used to build and maintain facilities, but as those dividends continue are looking at their wider communities.
"Some groups are starting to look at setting up things like health clinics and education groups," Schaafhausen said, who herself chairs her hapū Ngātai Haua.
Governance decisions for the iwi were made by the tribal authority Te Whakakitenga o Waikato's 136 representatives - two from each marae.
Schaafhausen said chairing this process had been one of the most "rewarding" aspects of her role.
"It is a beautiful thing to be in those meetings, with our people, discussing and debating the best way forward for our people."
In March the authority signed off on Whakatupuranga Waikato-Tainui 2050, a blueprint for cultural, social and economic advancement for Waikato-Tainui people.
It is a long-term development approach to building the capacity of Waikato-Tainui marae, hapū and iwi.
Aspirations include members becoming competent in te reo, and restoring te awa Waikato to "A+".
"This plan is really exciting. We have always done these things, but it gives us a clear line of sight", Schaafhausen said.
While there were difficulties in making decisions across such a large group, Schaafhausen said the Kingitanga was the "glue" that bound the iwi.
"The Kingitanga, established during a time of adversity, is the glue that brings us together, and the korowai that covers and protects us.
"I think that is what differentiates us from others, we are part of something deeper, and those values have to be lived."
Kingitanga, war, land confiscations and poverty
Land alienation and confiscation, war, poverty and loss of culture: The Waikato-Tainui post-colonisation story is not dissimilar to many other iwi and hapū across the motu, but few were on such a grand scale and involved such devastating outcomes as for the home of the Kingitanga.
In 1863-64, following the establishment of the Kingitanga in 1858 and subsequent conflicts between Māori and Pākehā settlers, the Crown invaded the Waikato, and confiscated more than 1.2 million acres (485,624ha) of land, Te Raupatu.
In the 1995 deed of settlement the Crown acknowledged "the Tainui people of the Waikato never rebelled but were attacked by British troops in direct violation of Article II of the Treaty of Waitangi".
But the loss of life and the effect of the raupatu, both immediately and over time, had a crippling impact on the welfare, economy and development of Waikato-Tainui.
In a 1932 report Tā Apirana Ngata said: "There is still bitterness and resentment; there is suspicion and distrust; there is an attitude of contemptuous scepticism towards law and government, which though not broken in the letter are avoided as things that formerly were associated with force and oppression."
Fifty years later the Centre for Māori Studies and Research at Waikato University conducted a survey and found attitudes had not changed.
"This loss of land, land now some of the most economically productive in New Zealand, has led to an almost landless proletariat which still broods over the manner of their dispossession," the centre said.
"The elders in particular give essence to this brooding when they argue that the Treaty of Waitangi, drawn up prior to the Land Wars, should be interpreted accordingly to their rights and should be honoured with a restoration of their lands."
In 1995 the Crown provided redress of $170m, and included a "relativity mechanism".
As the Crown was then operating under the later-abolished "fiscal envelope" of $1b for all settlements, Waikato-Tainui, and later Ngāi Tahu, negotiated that their settlement was a proportion of that $1b. As of 2018 the iwi had received a "top up" of $289.3m.
But even in providing that redress the Crown acknowledged the minimum value of those lands in 1995 would have had a value of $12b, or about $20b in 2019 terms.
Part of the settlement included an acknowledgement the iwi was "forgoing a substantial part of the redress sought by Waikato-Tainui in respect of the raupatu, and that this is recognised by the Crown as a contribution to the development of New Zealand".
We will rebuild our whare
Schaafhausen said whatever the amount settled on, nothing could ever fully compensate for the "mamae", hurt, caused by the raupatu.
"That will never compensate for the injustice and atrocities inflicted on our people.
"It is a sum far less than maybe it could have been, but our leaders at the time in their wisdom decided we would take it, and build on it."
A whakatauki from the second Māori King Tawhiao after the confiscations guided their path.
"He said when everything was taken, 'Māku anō e hanga tōku whare', we will rebuild our house, for the advancement of our whānau, hapū and iwi."
Schaafhausen said the iwi had spent the past 24 years using the settlement to rebuild that whare, and was now in an "exciting time" to redistribute and empower its people.
The Waikato-Tainui rohe included several economically depressed towns, including places such as Ngāruawahia, which was also home to the Kiingitanga.
Schaafhausen said nobody in the iwi should have to struggle.
"I'd be surprised if one of us didn't know someone who was suffering. We need to understand the need that is there, and then see what we can do to assist.
"We are aware not everybody benefits, but it is my belief nobody should go without, and if you are one of the 70,000-plus Waikato-Tainui, you should be entitled to benefit from what belongs to you."
Schaafhausen grew up in Morrinsville, with Rukumoana Marae – her namesake – and her hapū Ngāti Haua integral parts of her upbringing.
The post-settlement environment had supported her in her university studies, and had now provided her with an empowering role.
While she is too young to reflect on life before that 1995 settlement, she sees the opportunities she has as reflective of the position her iwi is now in.
Schaafhausen said now the iwi's big focus was redistributing those profits among its many members.
"We are well known for our balance sheet, but so what? If we are not shifting the dial for our people we are failing."
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
Wednesday: Ngāi Tahu: From landless to a $2b iwi
Thursday: Ngāti Porou: A loyal iwi seeking to transform its community
Friday: Ngāpuhi: The bright future that beckons