22 Jan 2023

Manawatū: Ngāti Kauwhata to meet with 'Settlers Day' event organisers

11:00 am on 22 January 2023
Professor Meihana Durie at his office, the books are bound PhD thesis from a range of Māori scholars.

Professor Meihana Durie, a spokesperson for Ngāti Kauwhata, says he hopes the meeting will be an opportunity for any misconceptions about the history of Māori settlement in the Oroua Valley to be cleared up. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Tangata whenua in the small Manawatū town of Kimbolton hope a meeting this weekend will help bring the community together.

Controversy was kicked up when posters appeared around the town for a Settlers Day event to be held on Waitangi Day - but no mana whenua were invited.

The organisers of the event will meet with local iwi, Ngāti Kauwhata, on Monday to discuss the history of settlement in the Oroua Valley.

The hui comes after comments were made by some locals questioning whether there had been any Māori settlement in the valley at all.

Professor Meihana Durie, a spokesperson for Ngāti Kauwhata, said the hui would be an opportunity for iwi to set the record straight and clear up any misconceptions.

"We were very concerned about the comments which in some ways were stating that there was, and is, no Māori - or particularly any iwi - presence there. That's incorrect.

"So we want to be able to use that opportunity ... to share a bit about our presence in the region, but equally our responsibilities and our obligations," he said.

Durie said he wanted the community to have a clear understanding that Māori occupation in the Oroua Valley dates as far back as between 1400 and 1500.

Many iwi have used the area north of Feilding for access to kai and for travel up and down the Oroua River, including Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Hauiti, Ngāti Apa and Rangitāne, he said.

As Waitangi Day approaches, Durie said discussions of the roles of tangata whenua and tangata tiriti would become even more critical.

"It's not necessarily the role of tangata whenua to educate about te Tiriti o Waitangi and that's another discussion to be had.

"And hopefully with our meeting on Monday next week we are able to open the door to that kōrero and that discussion. So, you know, we're optimistic," he said.

Durie said the majority of comments over social media had been extremely vocal against tangata whenua, even going as far as death threats.

But he hoped the iwi would be able to bring their perspective forward and educate the community on the history of the region they both call home.