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

The Crown’s significant breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi caused serious damage to the mana and autonomy of the iwi and hapū of Te Rohe Pōtae (King Country), the Waitangi Tribunal has found.

The Tribunal today released six chapters comprising part III of Te Mana Whatu Ahuru: Report on Te Rohe Pōtae Claims. This follows the release of parts and I and II in September 2018. 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 the land policy and legislation that the Crown imposed after 1900 in Te Rohe Pōtae and the implications these had on Māori, who expected to continue to exercise mana whakahaere, or self-government, over their lands and communities. These expectations reflected guarantees of rangatiratanga contained in the Treaty of Waitangi, as well as the (1883–85) agreements Te Rohe Pōtae Māori made with the Crown, known as Te Ōhākī Tapu, that promised to give effect to the Treaty in the district (and are discussed in detail in part II of the report).

During the negotiations leading to these agreements, Te Rohe Pōtae Māori were assured that, by allowing the Native Land Court to operate within their rohe from 1886, they could expect to receive a secure form of title that would advance their already substantial engagement with the colonial economy.

By the end of the nineteenth century, however, it had become obvious to both Māori and the Crown that the titles and undivided, individual interests the Native Land Court had awarded since its arrival in the district were flawed, facilitated land alienation, and inhibited land development. By 1909, 934,367 acres of Māori land had been alienated, nearly half of the entire district. By 1966, only 18 per cent of the district, or 342,722 acres, remained in Māori ownership.

The chapters in this part of the report examine how the Crown’s legislation and its actions frequently resulted in the alienation of native land in favour of European settlement. Approaches it applied through legislation included: the continued practice of Crown purchasing of shares in land; the creation of native land councils and later native land boards to act in place of owners; the compulsory vesting of lands in these boards for lease and administration; the establishment of native townships to enable surplus land to be made available for European settlement; the passing of compulsory consolidation of share interests to reform and simplify titles; the broad discretions given to the Native (later Māori) Land Court to facilitate alienations; the compulsory Europeanisation of land between 1967 and 1974 where there were limited numbers of owners; and the compulsory acquisition of uneconomic share interests. The Tribunal’s deliberations in this part of the report found numerous breaches related to the Crown’s twentieth-century land legislation, its application in the district, and the administrative actions of its various agencies.

It further found that the cumulative impact of the Crown’s Treaty breaches regarding land title, tenure, transfer and development in the district has resulted in a loss of tino rangatiratanga (full control and authority) over Te Rohe Pōtae lands, the breakdown in social and political relationships, land loss, and enormous social, economic and cultural prejudice, the impacts of which continue to this day.

Based on the Treaty breaches it has identified so far, the Tribunal made one recommendation in this part of the report. During Treaty settlement negotiations, the Crown should discuss with Te Rohe Pōtae Māori, or their mandated settling group(s), a possible legislative mechanism that will enable Te Rohe Pōtae iwi and hapū to administer their lands, either alongside the Māori Land Court and Te Tumu Paeroa (the Māori Trustee), or as separate entities. The choice is one that necessitates thorough consultation with Māori landowners and should not have any coercive or compulsory elements.

Part IV of the report, addressing local government, Māori political autonomy, and environmental issues, will be released in September 2019.

The Waitangi Tribunal’s report is now available to download: Te Mana Whatu Ahuru [PDF, 4Mb](external link)

For all media inquiries, contact Ministry of Justice media team, (04) 918 8836 or

Questions and answers

What is Te Rohe Pōtae?

The term ‘Te Rohe Pōtae’ refers to oral traditions associated with the second Māori King, Tāwhiao, who was said to have placed his hat on a map of the district to indicate the territory over which the Kīngitanga held sway. Wahanui Huatare, an influential nineteenth-century Ngāti Maniapoto leader, is also said to have used the hat as a metaphor for the territory.

Where is Te Rohe Pōtae?

The Te Rohe Pōtae inquiry district includes all territories from northern Taranaki to south Waikato that were not confiscated after the wars of the 1860s. It includes the western harbours of Kāwhia, Aotea, and Whāingaroa (Raglan) and extends to near Taumarunui.

Who are the claimants?

The claimants are descendants of Māori who lived in the inquiry district in February 1840. Most of the claimants identify as Ngāti Maniapoto, but many other iwi and hapū also took part in the inquiry.

The 1883 petition to Parliament that sought mana whakahaere (self-government) was supported by Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Raukawa, Whanganui, and Ngāti Hikairo iwi.

Why is the report being released in parts?

The Crown is at present negotiating a settlement of the historical claims of Ngāti Maniapoto. The Tribunal is issuing this part of the report in order to assist the parties with their negotiations.

What is the Te Rohe Pōtae district inquiry?

District inquiries are a means of hearing all historical Treaty claims submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal within a specific region. Te Rohe Pōtae is one of the last districts that the Tribunal is still to report on.

The Te Rohe Pōtae Tribunal heard 23 weeks of evidence, including six Ngā Kōrero Tuku Iho hui to hear traditions and oral evidence. Hearings began in March 2010 and ended in February 2015.

The Tribunal panel comprised Judge David Ambler (presiding officer), Sir Hirini Mead, Professor Pou Temara, Mr John Baird, and Dr Aroha Harris. After the death of Judge Ambler in 2017, Deputy Chief Judge Caren Fox was appointed to the role of presiding officer.


1830s Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato establish a powerful and enduring alliance.
1840 Te Rohe Pōtae rangatira sign the Treaty at Kāwhia and Waikato Heads. They include Taonui Hīkaka, Te Ngohi (father of Rewi Maniapoto), and Wiremu Nera Te Awaitaia of Ngāti Māhanga. Others, including Pōtatau Te Wherowhero (the future Māori King) and Te Heuheu of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, refuse to sign.
The Treaty guarantees that Māori will continue to retain tino rangatiratanga (full authority) over their communities and property. The Crown is granted kāwanatanga (a right to govern and make laws). This right is to be used for the control of settlers, for the protection of Māori, and for the benefit of Māori and settlers alike, including the protection of Māori authority in respect of lands and other taonga.
1840s Missionaries and traders establish themselves, and iwi and hapū in the district successfully develop agricultural and business opportunities.
1850s The government begins to purchase land in the district but with limited success. In many cases purchase agents fail to ensure they have agreement from all owners and this leads to increasing opposition to land sales.
1852 The British government passes the New Zealand Constitution Act, which provides a process by which settlers in New Zealand can obtain representative government. Māori are largely excluded, although section 71 of the Act allows for native districts to be created and governed according to tikanga and rangatiratanga (customary law and authority). But this provision is never used.
1857 Te Rohe Pōtae Māori leaders are central to establishing the Kīngitanga as a way to maintain Māori authority and hold onto land. The Kīngitanga is consistent with the institutional arrangements envisaged by the Treaty. The Crown has the option of recognising the Kīngitanga and incorporating it into the machinery of the state, but it chooses not to.
1860 The Government tries to buy land at Waitara in Taranaki without the consent of all the owners and then sends soldiers to enforce its claimed purchase. Ngāti Maniapoto and other Te Rohe Pōtae groups decide to assist those resisting the purchase. The government decides that the strength of Māori authority, represented by the Kīngitanga, is a threat to its own power and must be destroyed.
1863–64 The Government fuels false rumours of an imminent attack on Auckland by Ngāti Maniapoto. Their leader Rewi Maniapoto is portrayed as a dangerous fanatic. Around 18,000 soldiers invade Waikato in what is claimed to be a pre-emptive attack.
Repeated efforts by Kīngitanga leaders to negotiate a peaceful outcome are rebuffed.
At Rangiaowhia, non-combatants are killed when a whare is deliberately set on fire. At ōrākau, British and colonial troops massacre Māori as they attempt to escape from a besieged pā. No one is ever held to account for these events.
1865–67 All of the land occupied by the soldiers in Waikato and Taranaki is confiscated by the Crown. This includes the land of Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Apakura, who are claimants in this inquiry.
1866–83 In the aftermath of the war, Ngāti Maniapoto host Kīngi Tāwhiao and his people at Tokangamutu (Te Kūiti). Together they assert and enforce the aukati, a border mechanism to protect their lands and authority from further Crown aggression.
During the period of the aukati, Te Rohe Pōtae Māori and the Kīngitanga sought to bring the Treaty of Waitangi into effect in the region through negotiations with the Crown.
1883 Te Rohe Pōtae Māori petition Parliament to demand that the Crown use its kāwanatanga to give effect to the Treaty guarantee of tino rangatiratanga.
In December, they reach agreement with the Crown for a survey of the external boundary of their rohe, which they see as a first step towards recognition of their authority within the boundary.
1885 On the basis of promises by the Crown to give Māori communities greater powers of self-determination, Te Rohe Pōtae Māori consent to the construction of the North Island Main Trunk Railway through their lands.
1886 The Native Land Court sits at ōtorohanga to investigate and determine title to the Aotea-Rohe Potae block, an area encompassing a large part of the inquiry district. The court awards almost the whole block to the five applicants: Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Whanganui, and Ngāti Hikairo.
Over the next 20 years, the block is subdivided along iwi and hapū boundaries.
1890–1905 The Crown begins an extensive programme of land purchasing in Te Rohe Pōtae. As a result, more than 640,000 acres – a third of the district – pass out of Māori ownership during this relatively short period.
1897 Te Rohe Pōtae Māori petition Parliament asking for the removal of restrictions against selling or leasing to anyone but the Crown and to be permitted to lease or sell their lands to whoever they please.
1900 Maori Councils Act is passed, which provides for the establishment of Maori councils to deal (primarily) with health and social matters.
Maori Lands Administration Act passed, which provides for up to six Maori land districts in the North Island, each with an associated Maori land council.
1903 Construction of the North Island Main Trunk Railway through the inquiry district is completed.
Ngāti Maniapoto hold a hui at Mahoenui and agree to form a council of elders (also to include Te Wherowhero Tāwhiao) to promote unity amongst the iwi and its constituent hapū.
1904 Parliament decides to set up a Royal Commission on Crown lands ‘with a view to further encouraging and promoting land-settlement ’.
1905 Maori Land Settlement Act stipulates that Maori land boards, with reduced Māori representation, are to replace Maori land councils. All members to be Crown-appointed and Crown purchasing is allowed to resume.
By this time, more than one-third of land within the Aotea-Rohe Pōtae block has passed into the hands of the Crown, with much of it then being made available to Pākehā.
1907 Stout-Ngata commission is appointed in January and commission sits in Te Kuiti and Otorohanga in May and June. John Ormsby presents a letter on behalf of Taonui and 16 others, characterising the Maori land regime as ‘harassing, and entirely against progressive settlement’.
In July, Stout and Ngata’s interim report on Te Rohe Pōtae is released. It proposes that, of the land recommended for settlement, around four-fifths should be leased and only one-fifth sold. It further comments that Māori farming could, with assistance, be expanded.
1908 The Stout-Ngata commission sits in Te Kuiti and Otorohanga and issues a further report on Te Rohe Pōtae lands.
1909 James Carroll, as Acting Prime Minister, visits the King Country and meets with both settlers and Māori. At ōtorohanga, Māori present him with a petition decrying certain legislation regarding the use and management of land in the district. Petitions of this nature continue for years to come.
1914–18 Crown begins trying to secure land with a view to provide farms for soldiers returning from the First World War.
1922 Only about 28 per cent of Te Rohe Pōtae land remains in Māori hands by this time.
1939–45 The Second World War.
1961 The ‘Hunn Report’ is put out, covering a wide range of Māori issues, including the state of Māori land titles.
1978 Royal commission appointed to inquire into the Maori Land Courts.

← Back to the news