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Metiria Turei on Te Urewera-Tūhoe Bill

Tēna koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. Tēna koutou e te Whare. E te manuhiri tūārangi, ngā kaumātua, ngā rangatira, ngā tuakana, koutou o Ngai Tūhoe, kua tae tautoko mai i tēnei rā, nau mai, haere mai, whakatau mai.

When you read through the historical account that is written in the Te Urewera-Tūhoe Bill, you realise the extent to which we are all victims of history, destined to repeat it unless the lessons are truly learnt. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations speaking about exactly that in his first reading address this morning, because when it comes to issues concerning Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Crown does seem hell-bent on repeating the colonisation process over and over again.

Tūhoe, as much as others, know this only too well. From the historical account in the bill, you can see this repeated cycle, where Tūhoe assert their absolute and unequivocal sovereignty—their nationhood—but the Crown then uses force to put down their rangatiratanga. It then creates some kind of legal structure that, although rhetorically it is supposed to deliver some restitution, it is actually designed to take even further land, resources, and mana from iwi. Then, some decades later, there is an apology for all of those past actions.

So what is an apology worth? History has repeated itself over and over in Tūhoe, and now, of course, Tūhoe is owed yet another apology from the Crown, which may still take some years to come. Just a few weeks ago it was the anniversary of the Tūhoe raids, which was just the most recent example of where the Crown went into Tūhoe territory, used the full force of the State against whānau, kuia, kaumātua, and tamariki, and used yet again the same justifications that have been used for 150 years for the exercise and abuse of that power. May Tūhoe not have to wait a century for an apology for that process—for that colonial invasion of Tūhoe lands.

Looking at the history so that people can see how it has been repeated, Tūhoe was subjected to a completely unjust and entirely unjustifiable confiscation of land in 1865. They were not in rebellion; they were simply living, as they always have and always intended to, as an independent nation, as was their right then and their right now. The damage caused at that early stage was made significantly worse by the compensation court process, which returned much of the confiscated land to other Māori, but excluded Tūhoe from the land that they had traditionally occupied and cultivated.

After the confiscation the Crown waged war in Te Urewera, used scorched earth tactics extensively, and was responsible for the execution of unarmed prisoners and the killing of non-combatants. Those wars caused Tūhoe to suffer widespread starvation and extensive loss of life. Tūhoe went from being a strong, truly independent nation to being a small, largely landless group, all within a 5-year period.

Eventually the Crown withdrew its forces and agreed to leave Tūhoe to manage their own affairs—that sounds rather familiar. A governing council of chiefs, Te Whitu Tekau, was then established to uphold the mana motuhake in Te Urewera. But then there was the Native Land Court, yet another grand idea, a grand structure of Government, which helped to further alienate the remaining land. The Crown, indeed, induced Tūhoe to sell a large area of land at Waikaremoana by threatening to confiscate their interests if they did not sell.

In 1896 Parliament enacted the Urewera District Native Reserve Act. This provided for local self-government over 656,000 acres of the Urewera Reserve, and for decisions about the use of that land to be made collectively and according to Māori custom. Tūhoe at that time, quite rightly, believed that this system would protect their lands from sale and would deliver them genuine decision-making, but the Crown did not implement the self-government provisions of that Act and it undermined its protective provisions. Let that not be the case again.

Further dodgy tactics and, in my view, racist law were used by the State to take even more land. Harsh tactics were used to acquire land at Waikaremoana, where the Crown assumed control over Lake Waikaremoana and resisted for decades attempts by the owners to secure title to the lake bed.

In 1916, 70 armed police arrested Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana at Maungapōhatu. Two Tūhoe men were killed during that arrest. Rua was cleared of eight charges, including sedition, but was convicted of “moral resistance”. He was convicted of moral resistance, which was the only justifiable action in the face of decades of abuse of power, of threats, of structural racism and discrimination, and of murder—moral resistance.

The history continues. In 1954 the Crown established Te Urewera National Park, which included most of Tūhoe’s traditional lands. The Crown consulted Tūhoe about neither the establishment of the park nor its expansion in 1957, and it did not recognise Tūhoe as having any special interest in the park or its governance. National park policies have led to restrictions on Tūhoe’s customary use of this land and adjoining land. Again, we have the exercise and expression of rangatiratanga by Tūhoe; violence in various forms, structural and physical, perpetrated by the Crown; and legal structures being deliberately built to deliver unfairness, over and over again.

We have recently used the word “deal” to describe settlements—and I know that the Minister finds that difficult to hear, but I do think that it is the best and truest description of the settlement process—but I do want to acknowledge the Minister for the unique and innovative agreement concerning Te Urewera National Park. I do think that the Minister really has made a great step forward in finding new ways of recognising and delivering to iwi Māori decision-making over their land while trying to address the huge public issue that comes largely from not understanding the true history of Māori in this country.

So we are really pleased about the return, at least in some form, of Te Urewera to Tūhoe. It is a novel legal arrangement, giving Te Urewera its own legal identity, its own legal status, whose interests are managed by another group of people—by the board. We are very pleased that the board will in just a few years’ time be dominated by Tūhoe people, so that there is genuine majority decision-making by those who are uri of that place, and so it should be. We are thankful, actually, to Tūhoe for their ongoing commitment to having public access and public engagement in the decisions around Te Urewera, and we need to make sure that the public understand the extent to which in any settlement, including this one, iwi Māori make great gifts to the public—make great gifts in the public interest—even in the face of decades and decades of structural abuse. So we are thankful for those gifts.

Finally, the Greens have always been very highly critical of the settlement process, where iwi, who are the aggrieved party and the victims of historical attacks, have no authority of control over that process. We do understand that the necessary boundaries in a negotiation should be jointly determined by the parties and not set by just one party, and we will continue with this critique of the process. But we do want to expressly acknowledge the work that Tūhoe have done to come to a very good agreement with the Crown over this settlement, developing novel ways—innovative ways—of finding decision-making authority, returning some of that rangatiratanga.

We support the bill. We look forward to hearing more of the stories during the select committee process, and the we look forward to the swift passage of this legislation. Thank you.

10/22/2013 – 00:00


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