A new report on the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi is seen as groundbreaking and particularly important for the North.
The independent report makes clear that Ngapuhi did not sign away their sovereignty to the British Crown, nor did Ngapuhi cede governance to the Crown. Instead, rangatira wanted the Crown to provide a governor who would take charge of its unruly British subjects.
The report was commissioned to stand alongside a Waitangi Tribunal report - both reports based on evidence given over five weeks at initial Ngapuhi claim hearings in 2010 and 2011.
Statements by Ngapuhi speakers about the meaning and intentions of He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni 1835, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi 1840 were seen as particularly significant.
The independent report was commissioned by Titewhai Harawira and Nuki Aldridge on behalf of the kuia and kaumatua of Ngapuhi Nui Tonu.
Since 2006, kuia and kaumatua have voiced concerns about the independence of the Waitangi Tribunal process and say the Government has not responded to requests for an international forum to hear evidence on the two founding documents. They finally decided to commission an independent report on the hearings but limited funds meant that an international observer was not an option, so expertise was sought within New Zealand.
Three panel members were chosen to write the report - Susan Healy, Ingrid Huygens, and Takawai Murphy, with input from a kaitiaki from the north, Hori Parata.
The group comprised two Maori and two Pakeha.
"The declaration and the treaty were the result of the friendship that Ngapuhi rangatira had with British royalty that began in 1820 with the visit by Hongi Hika and Waikato. Ngapuhi had a dialogue that started with King George, and continued with King William and Queen Victoria. We want to be able to continue that dialogue," Mrs Harawira says.
A governor was called for to exert British authority over British subjects living without regard to either Maori or British law, she says.
"He was to work alongside the rangatira - never to have authority over them. They agreed to allow a governor, appointed by themselves and acting under their authority, to exercise British control over new migrants living in their rohe - nothing more and nothing less."
Mrs Harawira says there has been a long battle to raise the profile of the Treaty of Waitangi and to have the promises made redeemed.
"We have seen the comings and goings of many prime ministers - they are now gone, but for us our battle continues. The Ngapuhi nation is firm in its belief that our tupuna did not cede sovereignty."
Nuki Aldridge said the report was a response to the wishes of kaumatua for an independent exercise to be undertaken by people chosen by them, just as the Tribunal members are chosen by Government.
He said he expected the Tribunal would reach the same conclusion as the independent observers: That there is only one authentic treaty, which confirms the statements made in He Wakaputanga.
"Te Tiriti was intended to foster peaceful prosperity for both cultures and remains so for the future, when implemented as intended," he says.
Mr Aldridge commented on the need for fair process in the hearing of treaty claims: "In a treaty debate, you would think it reasonable that the rules of engagement are promulgated in equity by both parties. But it is inequitable where one party to a treaty makes the rules and has access to wealth to prosecute their evidence, while the other party is directed on how and when the resources are available."
He says the availability or the lack of resources will control the outcome.
"The story will be tainted by the rules and regulations that are imposed. The imposed rules and regulations also control the outcome and of course will show bias in favour of the system that has imposed its rules and regulations."
This is why Ngapuhi needed an independent report, he says.
"Those who fail to assert their rights have none. In this report the voices of Ngapuhi are heard again asserting our rights, and we expect a decent response," he says.
"This is a very important report" Susan Healy says.
The report is expected to be popular reading among Ngapuhi and the Crown this summer.
The report, Ngapuhi Speaks, can be ordered from Network Waitangi Whangarei, PO Box 417, Whangarei 0147 or email email@example.com or call 09 436 1807 or 021 928 561.
The independent observers were selected for their experience in research and education work related to the treaty, and their independence from government direction. Susan Healy, Pakeha, has a PhD in Maori Studies from the University of Auckland. Ingrid Huygens, Pakeha, is a researcher in cultural relations, community psychology and social change. Takawai Murphy, Ngati Manawa, Murupara, is an educator and researcher. Hori Parata, who acted as support and cultural advisor for the panel, holds an MA in indigenous studies from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, and is completing a PhD on kaitiakitanga.
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