23 Oct 2012

Tribunal's Urewera report honest - Kruger

10:06 pm on 23 October 2012

A Tuhoe leader says the Waitangi Tribunal has delivered a penetrating, sound and honest report on how the Crown treated the iwi and Te Urewera over the past 116 years.

The inquiry documents what the tribunal calls an uncomfortable history behind the creation of Te Urewera National Park.

It says the Crown ruthlessly bought up Maori land that was supposed to be protected through the state setting up a native reserve.

Tuhoe's chief negotiator, Tamati Kruger, says the undoing of the deal resonates strongly with him.

Mr Kruger says that work was frittered away, but he hopes negotiations on the future of Te Urewera will lead to a unbreakable agreement.

He says more than 100 years later, Maori and the state are in the same position, but this time he hopes both parties can do a better job.

Crown broke promises - tribunal

In its report - released on Tuesday - the tribunal says the Crown broke its promises to Ngai Tuhoe for self-governance, and acquired land for the national park from several tribes through unscrupulous means.

The report shows self-governing aspirations were undermined by the Crown and Tuhoe people became marginalised in their homeland.

What claimants cannot get to grips with is how the Crown made laws in 1896 to create a reserve for Tuhoe, yet 30 years later the Crown had taken much of the land through aggressive buying.

Frustrated by its own laws, the Government selected Maori who supported land sales and appointed them to a special committee - the only body that could authorise and conduct land sales to the Crown.

The tribunal says Tuhoe's hopes of a treaty relationship with the state were dealt a shattering blow. It says the nation must be shamed by the events.

Govt rejects call to return land

The Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, says the report is not surprising given the region's history, and it doesn't tell him anything new.

Mr Finlayson says the Crown won't be taking up the tribunal suggestion that title to Te Urewera could be returned to Tuhoe.

He says a settlement the Crown is currently negotiating with Tuhoe goes some way in addressing these wrongs. They hope to initial the settlement before Christmas.

The parties have already reached an agreement that no-one will own the land in Te Urewera National Park. It will instead exist as a new, separate legal entity under a power sharing deal.

But Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says the Government must consider handing over full ownership of Te Urewera National Park to Tuhoe in light of the latest report.

Mr Harawira says the Crown's current offer to Tuhoe of shared management of the national park does not go far enough.