7 Sep 2015

Apology for assault on iwi's rights

10:21 am on 7 September 2015

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has apologised for what he describes as the Crown's assault on the human rights of the Taranaki iwi in the 1800s.

A challenge at the Treaty Deed of Settlement ceremony.

A challenge at the Treaty Deed of Settlement ceremony. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Speaking at the signing of the iwi's $70 million Treaty settlement on the slopes of Mount Taranaki, Mr Finlayson said the Crown's crimes against Taranaki were among the worst of the time.

Taranaki is the seventh iwi in the region to have settled with the Crown.

Te Runanga o Ngāti Maru (Taranaki) Trust Ngati Maru is in the process of seeking a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the smallest iwi Ngati Maru.

Settlements so far:

  • Ngati Tama: $14.5m deal in 2002
  • Ngati Ruanui: $41m deal in 2003
  • Nga Rauru: $31m deal in 2005
  • Ngati Mutunga: $14.9m deal in 2005
  • Ngaruahine: $67.5m deal in 2014
  • Te Atiawa: $87m deal in 2014
  • Taranaki $70m deal in 2015

Mr Finlayson told the crowd of about 300 at Pukeiti that the Taranaki settlement had a particularly bleak backdrop.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The Crown had waged an unjust war on the people of Taranaki in the 1860s and confiscated 1.2 million acres of land - all its land not already taken - and left the iwi in economic ruin.

There had been an assault on the human rights of the Taranaki iwi, Mr Finlayson said.

"It's arrest without trial, being sent off to the South Island and the Chathams, the scorched earth policies, the waging of war and shelling of settlements.

"If you want to talk about the raupatu or confiscations or the real unfairness of what happened to Taranaki iwi, (these were) pretty well near the top."

Mr Finlayson said for these wrongs the iwi was owed a long-overdue apology and the Crown deeply regretted the actions of the past.

As well as the financial redress, the settlement also includes the rights to 29 culturally significant sites, including the Ngā Motu Islands off the New Plymouth coast, and rights to a similar number of Crown properties.

The iwi also gets the right of first refusal to buy any surplus Crown land and the right to representatives on two of the powerful standing committees at the Taranaki Regional Council.

Taranaki iwi lead negotiator Jamie Tuuta

Taranaki iwi lead negotiator Jamie Tuuta Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Taranaki's lead negotiator Jamie Tuuta said it had been an emotional day filled with sadness and pain, but also satisfaction at how far the iwi had come.

Mr Tuuta said while it was important to have heard the Crown's apology, it was now time to look to the future.

"It's significant because we get to a point in time where those wrongs, those breaches of the Treaty, the manner in which our forbears were treated has been acknowledged, but also importantly what it does is it provides as an opportunity to move forward as an iwi into the future."

Mr Finlayson also spoke about the injustices that occurred at Parihaka, which was the centre of passive resistance to the Crown in the late 1800s.

It was sacked by government troops and militia in 1881 and he said a separate form of redress for the settlement was being finalised.

Taranaki kaumatua and Treaty negotiator Mahara Okeroa speaks at the signing ceremony.

Taranaki kaumatua and Treaty negotiator Mahara Okeroa speaks at the signing ceremony. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Taranaki kuia Whero Oterangi Bailey welcomes a member of the Crown party.

Taranaki kuia Whero Oterangi Bailey welcomes a member of the Crown party. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs