10 Apr 2009

Injustices against Urewera people 'must be addressed'

3:05 pm on 10 April 2009

The Waitangi Tribunal has told the Government it needs to address injustices done to the Urewera people in the 1860s over unjustified killings by Crown forces and land confiscation.

The tribunal on Thursday released the first part of its report into the Treaty claims of the iwi and hapu of Te Urewera district.

Tribunal Judge Patrick Savage said the Crown wrongfully confiscated some of the most fertile Tuhoe land in the eastern Bay of Plenty to punish other iwi involved in several killings, including that of missionary Carl Volkner in 1865.

He said this has had serious long-term impact on the iwi, and while the Crown was justified in launching a military operation to apprehend Te Kooti who was behind the killings, its forces acted mercilessly, killing non-combatants intentionally and summarily executing some prisoners.

In a letter to the Maori Affairs Minister, Judge Savage said the confiscation of land from Tuhoe and the conduct of the war were not in accordance with the values of the time and cannot be justified as such.

He said the Crown actions have never been addressed or acknowledged and they now must be.

Judge Savage said the Maori people of Te Urewera were not offered the opportunity to sign the Treaty of Waitangi and did not sign it.

However, his letter said, in 1840 the Crown undertook Treaty obligations to all Maori, whether or not they had signed the Treaty.

"We uphold the claimants' view, however, that since their tipuna knew nothing of the Treaty, it could not, in any real sense, take effect to bind them to its terms."

Delhia Hopeha from the Waimana Valley says there will be joy throughout Tuhoe as the implications of the injustices have continued until the present day.