Waitangi Tribunal releases 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 (the King Country), the Waitangi Tribunal has found.

The Tribunal today released the first 11 chapters of Te Mana Whatu Ahuru: Report on Te Rohe Pōtae Claims. The report addresses 277 claims concerning Crown actions in Te Rohe Pōtae after the Treaty was signed on 6 February 1840.

The Tribunal reviewed Crown actions in terms of land purchasing in the district, the establishment of the Kīngitanga, its implications for Te Rohe Potae Māori, the impacts of war, and the definition and maintenance of the aukati (Māori zone of authority) in Te Rohe Pōtae which lasted for an unprecedented 20 years.

The central issue addressed in the report concerned negotiations between the leaders of Te Rohe Pōtae – especially Ngāti Maniapoto – and the Crown in the 1880s. The negotiations, and the agreements that resulted, are known by Te Rohe Pōtae Māori as Te Ōhākī Tapu. This term is derived from Te Kī Tapu (the sacred word), a phrase used by Ngāti Maniapoto leaders to describe the conduct they sought from the Crown.

Several rangatira in the inquiry district signed the Treaty. The Tribunal found that they retained their tino rangatiratanga (full chiefly authority) while granting the Crown kāwanatanga (a right to govern and make laws). This right was to be used to control settlers, to protect Māori rights and authority, and for the benefit of both peoples.

In the years after the Treaty, the Crown’s presence in the district was limited to establishing a process for the investigation of a small number of pre-Treaty land transactions, and to itself buying about 150,000 acres of land in the district before 1865. After Crown soldiers invaded Waikato in 1863, Te Rohe Pōtae Māori retained self-government for two decades. Their leaders put in place an aukati to shield their people from further Crown aggression.

In June 1883, Te Rohe Pōtae leaders petitioned Parliament to demand that the Crown use its kāwanatanga to give effect to the Treaty guarantee of tino rangatiratanga. In particular, Te Rohe Pōtae Māori asked the Crown to recognise their right to mana whakahaere, or autonomy and self-determination over their territories.

The Tribunal considered the demand by Te Rohe Pōtae Māori for mana whakahaere set out the terms on which their Treaty relationship with the Crown could be brought into practical effect.

For these reasons, the Tribunal concluded the negotiations of the 1880s were of enormous constitutional and political significance. But the Tribunal found that the Crown’s representatives in those negotiations acted at times with dishonest and misleading negotiation tactics and promises.

The Tribunal also found the Crown failed to engage as a Treaty partner and did not acknowledge Te Rohe Pōtae tino rangatiratanga. As a result, the opportunity to give proper effect to the Treaty in the district has yet to be fulfilled.

One of the Government’s main aims in the 1880s was to gain agreement to build the North Island Main Trunk Railway. The Tribunal found that the Crown did not adhere to many of the agreements it made with Te Rohe Pōtae Māori concerning the railway.

The Crown also sought to promote settlement in the district by introducing the Native Land Court in 1886 and, from 1890, pursuing an aggressive programme of land purchases. The court individualised land titles against the express wishes of Te Rohe Pōtae Māori. The report found this led to the rapid fragmentation and sale of land and caused serious damage to Māori community structures.

Between 1890 and 1905, more than 640,000 acres – a third of the district – passed out of Māori ownership. The Government used its law-making powers to control sales and keep prices low, while its agents frequently adopted questionable methods and tactics.

The report found the cumulative impact of the Crown’s Treaty breaches in the district has been breakdowns in social and political relationships, land loss, and enormous social, economic and cultural prejudice, the impacts of which continue to this day.

Land and political issues in the twentieth century and claims relating to health, education, and environmental management will be addressed when the Tribunal releases further parts of its report.

Based on the Treaty breaches it has identified so far, the Tribunal recommended the Crown take immediate steps to act, in conjunction with the mandated settlement group or groups, to put in place means to give effect to their rangatiratanga.

How this can be achieved will be for the claimants and Crown to decide, but the Tribunal recommends that, at a minimum, legislation must be enacted that recognises and affirms the rangatiratanga and the rights of autonomy and self-determination of Te Rohe Pōtae Māori.

In the case of Ngāti Maniapoto, or their mandated representatives, the Tribunal recommended that legislation must take into account and give effect to Te Ōhāki Tapu, in a way that imposes an obligation on the Crown and its agencies to give effect to the right to mana whakahaere.

The Waitangi Tribunal’s report is now available to download: Te Mana Whatu Ahuru [PDF, 19.1Mb](external link)

For all media inquiries contact: Antony Paltridge, Ministry of Justice media team on (04) 918 8820 or Antony.Paltridge@justice.govt.nz.


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