Tribunal finds serious Treaty breaches in report on Te Rohe Pōtae claims

The Crown’s significant breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi undermined the mana and autonomy of the iwi and hapū of Te Rohe Pōtae (King Country) over the management of the district, the Waitangi Tribunal has found.

The Tribunal today released the pre-publication versions of the five chapters comprising part IV of Te Mana Whatu Ahuru: Report on Te Rohe Pōtae Claims. This follows the release of parts I and II in September 2018, and part III in June 2019. The report addresses 277 claims concerning Crown actions in Te Rohe Pōtae after the Treaty was signed on 6 February 1840.

This part of the report addresses how the rapid alienation of Māori land (detailed in parts II and III of this report) reflected, and itself fuelled, an erosion of the ability of Te Rohe Pōtae Māori to exercise mana whakahaere, or self-government, over the way the district and its inhabitants were managed. An assurance that district leaders would be able to continue exercising mana whakahaere was contained within article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi guarantee of tino rangatiratanga (self-government, autonomy), as well as the (1883–85) agreements between Te Rohe Pōtae Māori and the Crown, known as Te Ōhākī Tapu, that promised to give effect to the Treaty in the district (detailed in part II of the report).

Contrary to these promises, in the years after the Te Ōhākī Tapu agreements, the Crown’s actions, omissions, legislation, and policies designed to develop the area for Pākehā settlement largely stripped Te Rohe Pōtae Māori of their tribal authority. Areas affected included the governance and management of Māori communities, the impact of local government and public works legislation on remaining Māori land, and the management of the natural environment, including waterways.

The Tribunal found that the Crown failed to sustain Te Rohe Pōtae self-government in a Treaty-compliant way. While Te Rohe Pōtae Māori participated in a succession of representative structures and institutions expected to provide them with at least a form of mana whakahaere, these spheres of influence were limited, and many did not prove enduring.

The imposition of Pākehā local government structures further complicated Te Rohe Pōtae Māori’s struggle to retain mana whakahaere, and the Tribunal found that the Crown failed to ensure local government structures would adequately consider Te Rohe Pōtae rights to exercise their mana whakahaere and tino rangatiratanga.

Compulsory taking of Māori land for public works development purposes, which increased markedly after the Te Ōhākī Tapu agreements, was another means through which large tracks of Māori land were alienated and Te Rohe Pōtae tribal authority diminished as a result. The Tribunal found that, without meaningful consultation and without meeting tests of last resort, the Crown undertook the largest takings for public works in New Zealand history in the inquiry district during the twentieth century.

Crown and local authorities’ regulation of the natural environment, including waterways and water bodies, further diminished Te Rohe Pōtae Māori tribal authority over many taonga and sites of significance. Additionally, the Tribunal found Crown regulation and mismanagement of the natural environment likely resulted in significant damage to many of these important sites.

Based on its findings of Treaty breach in these areas, the Tribunal made recommendations to restore or better enable Te Rohe Pōtae Māori mana whakahaere, including by amending the legislative and policy frameworks associated with each area under review and by accounting for identified breaches in any Treaty settlement processes with claimants.

Part V of this report will address issues of education and health, as well as claims relating to particular geographic areas in Te Rohe Pōtae.

The Waitangi Tribunal’s report is now available to download: Te Mana Whatu Ahuru: Report on Te Rohe Potae Claims – Pre-publication Version [PDF, 10.7 Mb](external link)

For all media inquiries, contact Jerram Watts, Ministry of Justice media team, on (04) 918 8980 or media@justice.govt.nz

 

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