‘Hugely significant’: Report into land loss, Treaty breaches suffered by Ngāpuhi to be presented

A historic Waitangi Tribunal report expected to call for the return of all Crown-owned land across much of Northland will be handed over to the country’s largest iwi this morning.

The almost 2000-page stage 2 report of Te Paparahi o Te Raki, also known as the Northland Inquiry, details land loss, military conflict and Treaty breaches suffered by Ngāpuhi between 1840 and 1900.

More than 10 years in the making, the report is based on 26 weeks of hearings and more than 500,000 pages of evidence relating to 415 individual Treaty claims.

Members of the tribunal will present the report to iwi leaders at Waitangi, at the very spot where the Treaty was signed more than 180 years earlier.

Iwi will also pay tribute to rangatira, leaders integral to the inquiry who have since died.

They include tribunal members Kihi Ngatai, Ranginui Walker and Keita Walker, as well as Patu Hohepa, Erima Henare, Rudy Taylor and Bob Ashby.

The report’s recommendations are expected to include calling on the government to apologise to Northern Māori and return all Crown-owned land in the area covered by the inquiry.

The tribunal is also expected to call for “substantial further compensation” to restore the economic base of hapū and to make up for economic losses caused by Treaty breaches; and urge the government to start discussions with Northland Māori about how the country’s constitutional processes and institutions can be changed to give effect to Treaty rights.

The timing of the handover coincides with a raft of coalition government policies such as removing references to Treaty principles in legislation and stopping initiatives promoting te reo Māori.

Māori across New Zealand participated in Toitū Te Whenua events earlier this week in response to a call to action from Te Pāti Māori and iwi.

Tuesday morning’s hīkoi, or march, through Whangārei was one of the largest in the country.

Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Tipene said today’s handover was important to the hapū of Ngāpuhi, because the Waitangi Tribunal was the only place they could share their stories publicly and be listened to by an independent body.

“A whole lot of blood, sweat, tears, experiences and stories that were told to the Waitangi Tribunal are now going to be reflected back to those who gave their evidence ... To have it presented back is hugely significant to those people who have been denied having their stories told and heard.”

Tipene said the report was timely given current concerns about some government policies.

“It’s a reminder to the government, and to the country, that this is an independent inquiry, it has heard evidence, and it is reflecting back to the country many of the things that have been unjust in our history, and continue to be unjust.

“With the current policies emanating out of the coalition government it is another reminder that we have to start painting a much clearer vision of where we’re going as a country because we cannot continue with the status quo, or in this case, take things backwards.”

The Northland Inquiry has been split into stages due to its enormous size and scope.

Stage 1, which was completed in 2014, found the Northern chiefs did not cede sovereignty when they signed He Whakaputanga (The Declaration of Independence) in 1835 or Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) five years later.

The potentially far-reaching constitutional implications of that finding have not been addressed by any government since.

Part one of Stage 2 examined individual Treaty claims from 1840-1900 in a large area covering much of Northland’s east coast as well as Hokianga, Bay of Islands, Whangārei and Mangakāhia.

Most claimants were Ngāpuhi but Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Wai and others were also represented.

Part two of Stage 2 will address Treaty claims relating to events after 1900.

Waitangi Tribunal rulings carry moral authority but are not binding on the government.

Ngāpuhi is New Zealand’s largest iwi and the only major tribe which has yet to settle its historic Treaty claims.

The first Treaty claim in the Te Raki (Northern) district was lodged in 1985 in relation to rates. The second, by the late Sir James Henare in 1988, concerned the Taumarere River.

Summary of draft recommendations*

In short, the Waitangi Tribunal’s draft stage 2 report called on the Crown to apologise to Te Raki [Northern] Māori for:

  • failing to recognise and respect the tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty) of hapū and iwi;
  • imposing a legal system that overrode tikanga;
  • failing to address the “legitimate concerns” of Ngāpuhi chiefs after they signed Te Tiriti, leading to the Northern War of 1845-46;
  • “egregious conduct” during the Northern War;
  • imposing policies and institutions designed to “wrest control and ownership of land and resources” from Māori;
  • refusing to give effect to Treaty rights within New Zealand’s political institutions and constitution.

The tribunal also calls on the Crown to:

  • return all Crown-owned land within the inquiry district to Māori ownership;
  • provide “substantial further compensation” to restore the economic base of hapū and as redress for economic losses caused by Treaty breaches;
  • enter discussions with Te Raki Māori to “determine appropriate constitutional processes and institutions at national, iwi and hapū levels to recognise, respect and give effect to their Tiriti/Treaty rights”.

*Summarised from the draft Stage 2 report. Some details may have changed in the final version due to be made public today.