26 Jun 2010

Compensation urged for Wairarapa iwi

10:58 pm on 26 June 2010

The Waitangi Tribunal says the Government should make legislative changes and offer compensation to local Iwi for about three million hectares of Wairarapa land taken by the Crown.

The report - released at a special ceremony at Te Oreore Marae near Masterton on Saturday - says the Crown seriously breached the Treaty of Waitangi when colonising Wairarapa in the 19th century.

The tribunal urges that Maori rights, principally those of Ngati Kahungunu and Rangitane, be recognised.

Tribunal director Catherine Nesus says private land ownership cannot be returned. However, she says the tribunal makes several specific recommendations.

"Including the return to Wairarapa Maori of ownership of the bed of Wairarapa moana, and the gift to tangata whenua of any land in Crown ownership adjacent to either of the two lakes Wairarapa and Onoke or anywhere in the vicinity as a reserve or reserves."

The tribunal's report says the Crown rapidly acquired Maori land in the eastern North Island, from Cape Palliser to southern Hawke's Bay, without regard to the population there.

It left Maori virtually landless in a part of the country where agriculture was critical to having a good livelihood.

Report will help iwi negotiations with Crown

Rangitane spokesperson Tipene Chrisp says after lodging their claims in 1989, the report's release puts the iwi a step closer to settling a deal.

"We're halfway there - we've finished the tribunal process, we have the report, we have the evidence, we now need to go into negotiations with the Crown.

"We certainly hope that it's not going to take another 21 years to get our claim settled, but we now have a very clear and strong evidential base for those negotiations."

Ngati Kahungunu spokesperson Henare Manaena says the long-awaited report validates and recognises the grievances of the two iwi.

He says claimants were told at hearings in 2004 that all claims would be heard within 12 months, and a report would be ready a year later.

"But here we are, in the cold wintry months of June 2010, and we have just received the report."