'Many' injustices to Kāpiti Māori admitted in Tribunal report

7:20 pm on 15 December 2022
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file image. Photo: Nathan Ellen-Johnson/ 123rf

The Waitangi Tribunal has found the Crown committed "many" Treaty breaches on the Kāpiti Coast - including in the founding of the town of Waikanae and the acquisition of land for an airport - that resulted in significant prejudice "that is still felt today."

A 992-page report released on Thursday is the latest in the ongoing Porirua ki Manawatū inquiry, this time detailing the 17 claims of Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Awa around Waikanae, Paraparaumu and Paekākāriki.

It found Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Awa are largely landless because of heavy-handed and dubious purchasing schemes, and the Crown's failure to abide by promises. It recommended urgent negotiations for a treaty settlement.

"The Crown's Treaty breaches in respect of Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Awa have been serious and sustained over a long period of time, and the prejudicial effects have been highly significant," the tribunal said in an attached letter to ministers.

The breaches started in 1858, when the Crown bought the Wainui and Whareroa blocks without finding out who owned the land. It then imposed the purchases without creating native reserves or seeking consent.

"Those who opposed the Whareroa and Wainui purchases (when they found out about them) lost their land without their consent and without any payment."

Two years later, Waikanae tribal leaders were threatened with land confiscation if they continued to support the Kiingitanga movement.

The native land laws of the 1870s also breached the Treaty's principles, the tribunal said, eating away Māori land title by title, converting customary rights into a finite list of individuals in a divide-and-conquer approach to customary land.

Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Awa tried to petition parliament in the 1890s, to no avail.

Much of the land around Waikanae and Paraparaumu was fragmented and then rapidly lost over the first three decades of the twentieth century, the tribunal found.

Then, as recently as the 1960s, land continued to be lost as the Crown imposed rates on Māori land and forced compulsory sales from those who couldn't pay.

Throughout the hearings, the Crown conceded that its failure to ensure the retention of sufficient land was a breach of Treaty principles.

"We welcomed those concessions but considered that they did not go far enough to capture many of the breaches suffered by Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Awa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries," the Tribunal said.

Origins of Waikanae

Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Awa rangatira Wi Parata had hoped to establish a native township on his lands at the turn of the 20th century.

Close to the new railway, it was established in 1899 on 49 acres, under the Native Townships Act, which gave an assumption that the towns would be controlled by, and for the benefit of, Māori.

But, the tribunal said, their actual purpose was often to extend Pākehā settlement on Māori-owned land in strategically-important areas, and the towns quickly became administered by the Crown or Crown-appointed bodies.

This was the case in the township that became Waikanae, where only the Ruakohatu Urupā remains in Māori ownership today.

Wiremu Te Kākākura Parata, who took the case in which Prendergast declared the Treaty a "simple nullity".

Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Awa rangatira Wi Parata Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library Reference: 1/1-020616-G

The tribunal found that some aspects of the town's founding were in breach of the Treaty, finding it should have worked with Parata to ensure protection.

It also said that once the town was founded, mana whenua were quickly excluded from other representation.

"Had the township been administered in partnership with Māori, it could have developed very differently," the tribunal wrote.

A town centre was later built in 1953, on top of what was the Parata papakāinga, without adequate consultation or consideration of Māori interests.

Across the railway tracks, in the nikau-covered hills, the tribunal also found that the Hemi Matenga Memorial Park's creation was in breach of the Treaty, with mana whenua unable to exercise their tino rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga over it.

For decades after, tangata whenua would continue to petition the Crown, often to no avail.

Paraparaumu Airport

Starting in 1938, with little or no notice, the Crown took 228 hectares under the Public Works Act to build an airport, taking more land in the 1940s and 1950s.

But unlike the 72 acres of Pākehā land, where the owners were negotiated with, the Māori land was compulsorily taken.

"The freehold was taken compulsorily solely because the land was Māori owned - other emergency landing grounds were leased from Pākehā owners instead," the Tribunal wrote, also finding against the Crown's argument that the land was taken freehold because it was driven by the prospect of war.

When the government sold the airport in 1995, it failed to properly offer surplus land back to the original owners before selling to a private company, despite being well aware of mana whenua concerns. This was both a Treaty breach and a breach of its own laws.

"The Ministry of Transport was well aware at the time that it had responsibilities towards Māori under the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, but no consideration was ever given as to whether the use of

the Public Works Act to take the land for the aerodrome compulsorily was relevant to how the Ministry interpreted its Treaty obligations," the tribunal wrote.

A view over Raumati and Paraparaumu to Kāpiti Island.

A view over Raumati and Paraparaumu toward Kāpiti Island, with Kāpiti Airport visible in the top right. Photo: 123RF

The Crown conceded earlier this year, after the tribunal's hearings, that it had failed to meet Treaty obligations when surplus land was sold by the privatised airport in 1999.

Towards the end of the report, the tribunal urged the Crown to start negotiating a settlement with Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Awa to address the ongoing harm caused.

It also recommended the Crown reform the offer-back provisions of the Public Works Act 1981.

Because, as one claimant who was quoted in the report told the Tribunal: "The Airport remains as a constant reminder to our whānau of the loss of opportunity ... in terms of the development of Paraparaumu.

"We have been taken advantage of and we lay the blame ... firmly at the feet of the Crown."

Kāpiti Coast mayor Janet Holborow said in a statement she welcomed the tribunal's findings, and that the report marked a major milestone.

The council was yet to work through the details in the report, she said, but she welcomed the clear direction from the tribunal regarding a number of claims.

"We know [the airport] is a significant site for iwi and hapū and there will also be strong interest from our wider community in how central government will take action on the tribunal's findings," Holborow said.

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