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Politics

Opinion: Tainui seeks legal redress on new government policies

OPINION

Since the election statements have been made by several members of the coalition government, including ministers within cabinet, regarding prospective Crown policies and decisions which are in direct conflict with the Crown’s commitments and related obligations to Waikato-Tainui.

If implemented, those actions would undermine decades of work and progress to address the adverse effects of the Raupatu (confiscation) and improve both the health and wellbeing of the people of Waikato-Tainui, and the health and wellbeing of our lands, waters and other resources.

On Wednesday, January 10, Waikato-Tainui filed proceedings in the Wellington High Court seeking declarations to affirm the rights and interests of Waikato-Tainui and the corresponding obligations of the Crown.

The Raupatu saw 1.2 million acres of Waikato-Tainui lands including a significant part of our tupuna awa wrongfully confiscated by the Crown with devastating intergenerational effects on the economic, social, cultural and environmental health and wellbeing of Waikato-Tainui and its people.

In early 1863, and in response to the threat of advancing colonial troops, the second Māori King, Kīngi Tāwhiao, declared an aukati (a line not to be crossed) at the Mangatāwhiri Stream in the northern Waikato. Under orders of Governor Grey, on July 12, 1863 the troops proceeded to cross the aukati and invaded the Waikato. Armed conflict and the raupatu ensued.

Waikato-Tainui has now drawn a contemporary aukati with the filing of proceedings in the High Court.

Our Lands Settlement in 1995 and the Waikato River Settlement in 2009 were significant steps in the long journey of Waikato-Tainui to address the impacts of the Raupatu. Those settlements included a mutual commitment to a new era of co-operation between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui, and an active and ongoing relationship of good faith and integrity founded on the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles.

Further agreements and understandings have been reached between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui as Treaty partners across a range of areas (including the environment, health, and housing) over the last 15 years. These commitments are of fundamental importance to the ongoing efforts to mitigate the intergenerational effects of the Raupatu on the health and wellbeing of Waikato-Tainui.

The proceedings reflect the gravity of Waikato-Tainui’s concerns regarding recent statements by the Government, particularly those regarding the status of te reo Māori. We cannot reasonably stand by while in the face of proposals that marginalise and diminish the significance of te reo Māori. The importance of te reo and its protection and promotion is inextricably bound together with our culture, our environment and our identity as recognised in our settlements.

Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Paul Goldsmith stated last week the Government takes Treaty settlements seriously and values te reo Māori. Yet proposals set out in the Government’s coalition agreements and statements by other members of the Government are completely at odds with that.

The proceedings are about holding the Government to account for anything that adversely affects the people of Waikato-Tainui or breaches our settlements. We will therefore not only challenge issues relating to te reo, but also any matters relating to the environment, health or other sectors that threaten our rights and interests. We simply cannot go backwards from the hard-won progress that our people over many generations fought so long to achieve.

Let me assure readers that Waikato-Tainui is ready, we are mobilised and will not only pursue these matters in the court, but will bring them to the very steps of Parliament itself if necessary. We will take every course available to us to protect our rights and interests and hold the Crown to its commitments under both our settlements and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Tukoroirangi Morgan is a former politician and broadcaster. He is the chairman of Tainui iwi and helped spearhead the Waikato River settlement claim with both the Labour and National governments alongside the late Lady Raiha Mahuta

- NZME