Tribunal slams Crown over Urewera Treaty breaches

KATE CHAPMAN AND DANYA LEVY
Last updated 12:00 23/10/2012

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The country ''must be ashamed'' of the Crown's multiple Treaty breaches and betrayal of iwi in Te Urewera National Park, the Waitangi Tribunal says.

The tribunal today released the third part of its report on claims by the people of Te Urewera, including Tuhoe.

It has previously found that even though these tribes did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi - because they were not given a chance to do so - they were effectively independent until at least 1865.

Recently the Government signed a deal with Tuhoe which included a $170 million cash settlement, a Crown apology and the Crown relinquishing ownership of the national park.

The park, including Lake Waikaremoana, will be set up as a separate legal identity, governed by a board comprising Crown and Ngai Tuhoe nominees.

Such title return and joint management arrangements had worked well in Australia, the tribunal said.

''For the peoples of Te Urewera, especially Tuhoe, the national park has come to symbolise their dispossession.

''The Tribunal's findings vindicate the claimants' long-held grievance over the defeat of their aspirations for self-government in their own reserve and the loss of their ancestral lands.''

In its report, released today, the tribunal said the claimant's central grievances were that they were self-governing until 1896 when the Crown began acquiring the land.

''The grief and anger the people expressed to us can be appreciated only when it is understood how their self-governing aspirations were undermined by the Crown, and how they have become marginalised in their homeland.''

The Crown's actions were outlined in part three of the report.

It found a ''long-unfolding betrayal'' of the Treaty relationship over a 100-year period.

By 1930, the people of Te Urewera retained just 25 per cent of the 656,000 acre reserve promised to them by Premier Richard Seddon.

''As a nation we must be shamed by these events.''

The breaches were made worse because of previous promises by the Crown which were later broken, the tribunal said.

Those promises ''quickly dissipated'' but not because of failure by the iwi leaders.

While Te Urewera National Park was established in breach of the Treaty, the park was not wrong per se, rather the issue was with the type of park that was created.

The tribunal said a state forest would have allowed controlled logging and pest eradication to protect the forest but allow economic development.

And if Tuhoe had been consulted, a solution may have been found in the beginning.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said there were no surprises in the report, which showed there were "clearly" issues the Crown needed to address.

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However, he said the agreement in principle signed between the Crown and Tuhoe in September was a better model than that suggested by the tribunal.

"It addresses all the aspirations of Tuhoe and we're working very hard on getting chapter and verse on that worked out."

Finlayson said he didn't believe there was any need for the deal to be re-evaluated.

"The key components of the agreement in principle were closely negotiated over quite a number of months by Tuhoe and the Crown and I think we've got to a pretty happy space."

The minister said he met last week with another affected iwi, Ngati Ruapani.

"I assured them they will have a separate settlement and I think they left my office pretty happy.

"They have been concerned, they had a misconception that somehow their settlement was going to be rolled up in the Tuhoe settlement which is not right."

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