3 Aug 2010

Report encourages Tuhoe to fight for park ownership

8:09 pm on 3 August 2010

Tuhoe's lead negotiator says a new report from the Waitangi Tribunal has given it courage to fight for ownership of Te Urewera national park, despite the Prime Minister ruling it out.

In the second instalment of its report into the history of conflict over Te Urewera district, the tribunal has recommended part of the park be returned to Tuhoe - something John Key ruled out in May.

Tuhoe lead negotiator Tamati Kruger told Morning Report that while Mr Key's position is an impediment to getting the park back, the report is encouraging.

"This report says that we should have the courage to resolve the real issues, which is the spirit and intent, I think, of Treaty of Waitangi negotiations and settlement," Mr Kruger says.

He says it is important Tuhoe owns what is essentially its own property.

'Solid basis for talks'

A Ngati Ruapani claimant, Vern Winitana, says the report should give Ngati Ruapani a solid basis for starting settlement talks with the Crown.

Mr Winitana told Waatea News the tribunal has recognised Ngati Ruapani as a separate entity, rather than as a hapu of Ngai Tuhoe or Ngati Kahungunu.

He says the report covers one of the most brutal periods of New Zealand history - the 1860s and 1870s - after which Ngati Ruapani's tribal estate of 140,000 hectares was reduced by confiscation and forced sale to just 400 hectares.

It was acknowledged that people killed by Crown forces were non- combatants, Mr Winitana says, and that while some were defending their land it was not a rebellion against the Crown.

'Precedent' argument countered

Historian Paul Moon says that returning the park to Tuhoe does not have to set a precedent for other tribes.

Professor Moon, of the Auckland University of Technology, says one of the reasons the Government rejected Tuhoe's ownership claims was that it was worried other tribes would want parks returned.

Tuhoe endured much more suffering than other tribes, Professor Moon says, with the Crown implementing a scorched-earth policy against it, and that might give it leverage to argue for a one-off settlement.