8 Aug 2014

Claimants tell of pain of clearances

6:10 am on 8 August 2014

Northland's Ngati Hine people have spoken publicly for the first time of government clearances that forced them off their land in the 1960s.

The Waitangi Tribunal has heard evidence that the government bulldozed or burned about 18 homes in the Pipiwai area, west of Whangarei, when it amalgamated Maori titles to create bigger farming blocks.

One claimant, Rua Armstrong, said agents of the Maori Affairs department tore down her mother's shop in 1969 when the family was out.

She said the family was devastated and has carried painful memories of that time and their loss ever since.

Ms Armstrong said her mother, Ata-Iti Te Rehu Hoterene, was among the staunchest opponents of the amalgamation scheme and fought in vain all her life to have her land returned.

She said Maori Affairs officials belittled her, ruling she was unfit to run a farm, though she had supported her family on the land for years.

Ngati Hine leader Erima Henare says the descendants of those who were inside the pa have always had a grievance about those on the outside, who fought for the British.

Ngati Hine claimants at the Waitangi Tribunal hearing Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Ngati Hine claimants say the Te Horo development scheme was a failure that wrecked a community and destroyed the livelihoods of poor but self-sufficient families.

They have told the tribunal that whanau had lived for generations off their small blocks, with large shared gardens, orchards, and livestock - all destroyed when the bulldozers came.

Another claimant, Renata Shortland, said his grandfather's house was demolished in a bid to evict him from his land, but he defied the Crown by moving his family into a spare cowshed.

He said the old man fired his shotgun over the head of a Maori Affairs agent who arrived at his gate with 40 cattle to graze.

Mr Shortland said the family moved into town only after their cowshed home made the front page of the paper, and thethen Maori Affairs Minister Matiu Rata offered them a state house in Whangarei.

He told the Tribunal his father lasted about a year in town before he died.

Other claimants said the amalgamation scheme and the trauma of the clearances had caused lasting damage to whanau through the loss of relationships and te reo as they moved into town.

Ngati Hine say the land is now in the hands of a Maori Trust set up by the Crown without input from the land owners - and they want it partioned off and restored to them.

Friday is the final day of the Ngati Hine hearing which is open to the public at Tau Henare marae at Pipiwai .