Regional | Ngāti Maru ki Taranaki

Ngāti Maru call to come home for Treaty apology

Ngāti Maru uri (descendants) at Parliament for the settlement bill's first reading in March. Photo / Supplied

By Craig Ashworth, Local Democracy Reporter

The call has gone out for whānau to come home and celebrate the final Treaty of Waitangi iwi settlement in Taranaki.

The Crown will apologise to Ngāti Maru on 29 October at Te Upoko o te Whenua marae at Tarata, and hand over titles to land that is being returned to the iwi.

The deed of settlement was signed in February last year and a month later was approved unanimously in Parliament.

But Covid-19 meant the Crown and Ngāti Maru could not mark the settlement in public, and under tikanga and kawa (marae protocol).

The lead negotiator and transition manager for Te Runanga o Ngāti Maru, Anaru Marshall, said the private signing during Covid restrictions was never enough.

"The trustees were always adamant that at some point the Crown are going to have to come back and front up to the iwi and read that apology - and we've also asked that they bring those land deeds and hand them back."

There are 16 titles being returned: Seven sites, including Pūrangi Domain, will be returned as ordinary property; the other nine, including Tarata Domain will be returned but remain as reserves.

"What we want to do with those is to have mokopuna and rangatahi that are uri (descendants) of the most active tūpuna on our tūpuna list - we'd like them to meet with the minister and publicly receive those titles and those deeds… on behalf of the iwi," Marshall said.

"We've made it clear from the beginning the settlement is not really for us, for my generation.

"It's for the generations that are coming and it's important now that we engage with them… because it'll be up to them to carry it on and take it into the future."

It was time to join together for the last step of the decades-long claim settlement journey, Marshall said.

"We started it together, we've lost many people along the way, but it's important we all come together now and tangi together, laugh together and celebrate together."

The day has been named Te Pūaotanga mai o Maru i te Atatū - the reawakening and reemergence of Ngāti Maru.

Tamzyn Pue was involved in the settlement process from the age of 16 and is now Tumu Ahurea (cultural advisor) for Ngāti Maru.

"At the heart of this day, of this kaupapa, is Maru Ora (the vitality of Maru)," she said.

"Yes, there is the Crown apology that's coming, more importantly some of our whenua will be returned to us - but also it's an opportunity for us to come together as Maru and be together as Maru at our marae."

Wānanga begin this weekend to learn waiata for the day, with a Zoom link open for those who cannot make it to the marae.

The day before the apology, buses will run from Auckland and Wellington, picking up uri along the route.

The Ngāti Maru rohe (area) is centred on the inland Waitara River Valley, and extends from Taranaki Maunga in the west to the upper Whanganui River in the east.

The settlement is the last of the historic claims by the region's eight iwi, and opens the way for the settlement over maunga to be finalised.

The Ngāti Maru (Taranaki) Claims Settlement Act describes how half of Ngāti Maru's land was confiscated as punishment, despite the iwi not being involved in the Taranaki wars.

The rest of their land was taken through the Native Land Court and leases under the Public Trustee, and this loss "eroded tribal structures, created severe poverty, and damaged the physical, cultural, and spiritual health of generations of Ngāti Maru people."

The Act includes apologies for "destructive and demoralising" war and "indiscriminate and unwarranted" confiscation, as well as for "unjust treatment and exile" meted out for peaceful resistance and for "unconscionable actions at Parihaka and the ensuing hardship and heartache Ngāti Maru peoples suffered".

Ngāti Maru receives financial and commercial redress of $30 million, including the right to purchase of Te Wera Forest and 35 other Crown properties.

Cultural redress includes the 16 sites of cultural significance and a million dollars for cultural revitalisation.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting