9 Jun 2020

Waitangi Tribunal reveals next chapter to major King Country inquiry

5:12 pm on 9 June 2020

The Crown has failed to protect King Country Māori against the severe and lasting impacts of settlement, the Waitangi Tribunal says.

No caption

A view from rural King Country. Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

It has released part five of its report Te Mana Whatu Ahuru: Report on Te Rohe Pōtae Claims, which addresses 277 claims concerning Crown actions.

The district extends from Whāingaroa Harbour to northern Taranaki, and inland to the Waikato River and Taumarunui.

This chapter addresses claims concerning Te Rohe Pōtae Māori health and well-being from 1886 to the present, covering subjects such as education, employment te reo Māori and racial discrimination.

Maniapoto Trust Board Chair Keith Ikin said there was a lot to take in. "It has been a long journey for us as a people, for Maniapoto," he said.

No caption

Keith Ikin. Photo: RNZ / Leigh-Marama McLachlan

"It focuses on the period basically after the opening up of the King Country for the main trunk railway coming through and the period since then to the present day."

In the mid 1880's, Te Rohe Pōtae Māori negotiated with the Crown to open their district to the North Island main trunk railway, a move which would bring the region's long-standing isolation from Pākehā to an end.

The Crown did not uphold its promises, and between 1890 to 1905, Māori lost ownership of more than 250,000 hectares of land, or a third of the district.

Ikin said the Crown ignored the assurances it gave them and that was the catalyst for the situation King Country Māori were in today.

"Our people have been disenfranchised from their lands. We have got significant challenges in terms of health and well-being of our people and identity," he said.

"All of those impacts can be traced back to those decisions and those activities that were made back in the 1880s."

Tribunal finds numerous Crown breaches

In the fifth chapter of the report, the tribunal found countless examples of the Crown failing to uphold its duties under the Treaty and its own agreement with Te Rohe Pōtae Māori, Te Ōhākī Tapu.

Private collector Spencer Scoular recently outbid a number of the country's libraries for a prized copy of a corrected printing of a Treaty of Waitangi proclamation of sovereignty and handwritten letter, for 31-thousand dollars.

A section of the Treaty of Waitangi. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

"Due to the loss of land, there was a corresponding negative impact on Te Rohe Pōtae Māori health and well-being, a result for which the Crown was responsible," the report said.

"We find that the Crown failed in its duty of active protection of Māori against the adverse health impacts of settlement."

It also takes aim at the Crown for forcing Māori to gift land for native schools and for suppressing te reo Māori in the school systems.

"Te Rohe Pōtae Māori have over a long period of time received less exposure to, and benefit from, formal education than the general population," the report said.

"For much of the twentieth century, government-directed education in Te Rohe Pōtae, as elsewhere in New Zealand, prioritised assimilation over the retention of te reo Māori and cultural practices, sometimes using physical punishment as an informal tool of coercion," it continued to say.

"Though improved in certain respects, the pattern of inequity discussed in this part of the report continues to a significant degree in the high level of educational disadvantage many Te Rohe Pōtae Māori suffer to this day," the report said.

The tribunal also heard of racial segregation at local picture theatres and some bars - it said the Crown failed in its duty of active protection by not preventing racial segregation.

As a result of these failures, Te Rohe Pōtae Māori were disadvantaged within the local economy; earned less than other groups in the population; had worse health and lower quality housing; migrated away from the district out of necessity; had an often-fragile hold on employment; and for many years were unable to exert social autonomy over the health and well-being of their communities, the tribunal said.

Still a source of pain for Te Rohe Pōtae Māori

Ikin said what happened to his people was still a source of mamae - or pain.

Ngāti Maniapoto has put its treaty negotiations with the Crown on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and was looking to return to negotiations soon.

Ikin said the reports had been critical for them in the negotiation space.

"We have got an independent view of history, of the impact of the Crown actions on our people, through these tribunal reports."

Ikin said the reports helped to inform iwi as they negotiated their settlement with the Crown.

"This is the history of our people... we want to ensure that these tribunal reports that provide a comprehensive summary of our experience of colonisation within our rohe, that we ensure that this history is known and understood by our people and by generations of Maniapoto people to come."

Another report pertaining to particular subregions in Te Rohe Pōtae is expected later in the year.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs