17 Apr 2012

Loss of Gisborne land compared to loss of a child

7:44 am on 17 April 2012

Loss of land on the East Coast was like having a child taken away, the Mangatu Blocks Incorporation says.

The Gisborne Maori authority is preparing for an urgent hearing at the Waitangi Tribunal over whenua bought by the Crown in 1961.

Tribunal members have already found the sale of the land was forced - and was a breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

In the Turanga Tangata Turanga Whenua report in 2004, the tribunal found that the Crown's conduct in negotiations over the acquisition were in breach of treaty principles because the owners had been misled by negotiators.

Purchase of 8626 acres of Mangatu No. 1 block for erosion control purposes was not actually necessary for erosion control and the Crown did not disclose that the forest planted on the land would be a commercial asset.

Tribunal members will now decide whether or not the land should be given back to the Maori authority.

The chairperson of Mangatu Blocks Incorporation, Alan Haronga, says it has been fighting a 20-year legal battle for its members, including old people who remember the land being bought and the anguish of losing the land.

Mr Haronga says the forced sale is terribly hurtful to tangata whenua alive today.

He says the hearing on 18 June will be either win or lose - and the incorporation's giving it its best shot.

Mr Haronga says this time the tribunal must come up with a solution and make a binding decision.