22 May 2015

Waikato-Tainui signing 20 years on

5:45 am on 22 May 2015

Today marks 20 years since Waikato-Tainui signed the first major settlement of historical land confiscation (raupatu) with the Crown.

The signing, in 1995.

The signing, in 1995. Photo: Supplied

Signed by then-Prime Minister Jim Bolger and the late Maori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu, Waikato-Tainui's confiscation claims were settled with a package worth $170 million, in a mixture of cash and Crown-owned land.

That package is now worth over $1 billion and the iwi is an economic powerhouse in the region.

The land wars of the 1860s had a profound effect on Waikato-Tainui, with the confiscation of 1.2 million hectares, including the Waikato River, resulting in widespread economic and social deprivation.

The deed of settlement was signed at Turangawaewae Marae on 22 May 1995 and personally signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II in Wellington later that year.

Speaking at the deed signing, the Jim Bolger described it as a momentous occasion.

"In an act of reconcilliation bringing together the people of New Zealand, but in particular the people of Waikato-Tainui, and the Crown to make recompense for the wrongs, and to apologise for the wrongs of those many many years ago."

Waikato-Tainui executive Te Arataura chairman Rahui Papa remembered the signing very clearly.

"I still remember the faces of the people at Turangawaewae on the signing day, on the 22nd of May 1995 when the Crown came in and it was an historic moment.

"You had the people for and against and you had the old people and the tears streaming down their faces.

"It was truly an end to the suffering that their grandparents had suffered in the 1860s."

Mr Papa believed a number of the aspirations of the tribe had been met over the last 20 years.

"There are some that were set in 1995 that will not be achieved in this generation nor the next generation but we are chipping away at those.

"Some of them, like the repatriation of some of our tribally significant sites, some of the prosperity for the whanau member. Those are long term ongoing projects that we are engaging with and chipping away at."

Sir Henry van der Hayden is the Chair of Tainui Group Holdings, the iwi's commercial arm.

The company, through land developments and business investments, has established a billion-dollar platform of assets for Waikato-Tainui.

After a rocky start with poor investment advice, the iwi established the company, and its fortunes have never looked back.

Sir Henry said the company's strategy had been simple.

"It's probably been a really tight focus on business and business discipline. A lot of the settlement was land, so it is actually turning that land into real value."

The separation of the commercial arm from the rest of the iwi had worked well and was a model for other iwi, he said.

"Our role in that has been the inter-generational investor and creating value, and then you have got the social arm, that is a lot more responsible for the social development of the tribe, right from culture, education, the environment and those sorts of things."

Waikato University Professor of Finance Stuart Locke said the company's strategy of long term investments and slower gains had paid off.

"Building a strong asset base and, the most recent example, the inland port project (in Hamilton) shows really quite long-term aspirations, and that to me is a very important thing for the development of Waikato."

Mr Papa said an example of how the tribe had benefited was the number of iwi-supported students who have qualified with PhDs, going from one before 1995 to 48 today.

The iwi will commemorate the anniversary today at Turangawaewae.