Monday, January 3, 2011
Mike Butler: Mohaka settlement generous, but who sold the land and killed the ancestors?
Ngati Pahauwera is a confederation of clans centred on the Mohaka River in northern Hawke’s Bay. The tribe did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi, chief Paora Rerepu sold large areas of tribal land to participate in the new economy, and supported the colonial government against anti-government Pai Marire (Hauhau) and Te Kooti fighters. Te Kooti’s forces attacked the tribe’s Mohaka settlement in 1869, killing 56 men, women and children, leaving the survivors destitute.
The nature of Ngati Pahauwera’s grievances are reflected in the “acknowledgements and apology” section of the Deed of Settlement. (2) In the deed, the government acknowledges that it breached the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and its principles (created in 1987) by failing to ensure that Ngati Pahauwera were able to reserve sites, by not providing leasing as an alternative to purchase, by ignoring ambiguity in the 1851 deed about the precise boundaries, by paying a low price for the Mohaka block, by not ensuring that Ngati Pahauwera would receive the full, ongoing benefits from European settlement, by failing to provide the tribe with protection against the known risk of attack in 1869, when Te Kooti’s fighters killed 56 Ngati Pahauwera and seven Europeans, and by failing to provide more than minimal assistance to help Ngati Pahauwera recover after the attack, by confiscating of land in the Mohaka-Waikare district, by failing to provide a corporate title option before title to all of Ngati Pahauwera lands, except three blocks, had been awarded to individuals, by implementing native land laws that made land more susceptible to partition, fragmentation, and alienation, and more.
In other words, the government has taken responsibility for all ills that befell Ngati Pahauwera from 1851 to 1990.
The deed describes how Paora Rerepu and 296 of his people sold the 87,500-acre Mohaka Block in June 1851 for ₤800 payable over four years. By April 1855, the government had paid the $200 deposit and two further instalments of £300, a couple of small areas within the Mohaka block had been on-sold to settlers for 10 shillings (or 120 pence) per acre. The £800 Ngati Pahauwera received for the entire block was approximately 2.25 pence per acre.
Thereafter, the price hitherto agreed upon by a willing buyer and willing seller, became a point of contention. Presumably, nobody explained to Ngati Pahauwera how demand increases the price of land, or how the government monopoly on sales of Maori land, agreed to in article two of the Treaty of Waitangi, distorted prices, or the fact that once land has been sold it has gone forever to a new owner.
Nevertheless, Rerepu continued selling land. In 1859, Rerepu and 14 others sold the 10,000-acre coastal Moeangiangi block for £300, or seven pence per acre. This transaction was later the subject of a complaint to the Hawke’s Bay Native Land Alienation Commission, also known as the Repudiation Movement. In 1864, the government paid £1250 (about one shilling per acre) for the 21,000-acre Waihua Block. In 1866, Rerepu and 13 others sold the 4470-acre Otumatahi Block for £400.
The 1865 Native Lands Act created the Native Land Court that changed traditional communal land-holding into individual title, to make the sales and purchases of Maori land less fraught. The court was required to name no more than 10 owners, regardless of the size of a block. All other tribal members who may have been owners were effectively dispossessed. (3)
In 1868, Rerepu took the Waihua, Waipapa, Mohaka, Whareraurakau and Pihanui 2 blocks to the Native Land Court, which awarded the Waihua 1 and 2, Waipapa, Mohaka and Whareraurakau blocks to 10 owners each. It registered 121 individuals as having interests in the Mohaka block, but for the other three blocks registered the names of clans rather than individuals.
An 1899 petition sought an inquiry to determine whether all payments for the block had been made, and in 1925, the tribe petitioned the government on the adequacy of the purchase price, the lack of reserves, and 17 minors being signatories to the deed.
The deed blames native land laws, in particular the awarding of land to individual Ngati Pahauwera rather than to the tribe or clans, for making those lands more susceptible to partition, fragmentation, and alienation. Rather than blaming the government, the claimants should look at the actions of their own forebears, especially Paora Rerepu, for dispossessing them of their lands in return for short-term gain.
The deed points the finger at the government of the day for failing to protect the tribe from the known threat of attack from Te Kooti. By the end of 1868, the government had hired numerous Ngati Pahauwera fighters to help search for guerrilla fighter Te Kooti, who, with 163 men, 64 women, and 71 children, had escaped from imprisonment on the Chatham Islands. In April 1869 Te Kooti’s forces attacked Ngati Pahauwera pā and kainga on the lower part of the Mohaka River valley and European settlers on the southern bank of the river. At least 56 Ngati Pahauwera men, women and children were killed, as were seven Europeans. Others were wounded or taken prisoner. All the crops in the settlement were reportedly destroyed, and large quantities of supplies, livestock and other property were stolen. A prized ammunition dump buried under a whare exploded in a spectacular blast seen from Napier.
The economic development of the northern Hawke’s Bay region was disrupted as many settlers abandoned the area and trade stagnated. Ngati Pahauwera received little assistance from the government and like other civilians received no compensation for their losses.
Because the Waitangi Tribunal is empowered to report solely on Maori grievances back to 1840, grievances caused by Maori or inflicted upon non-Maori are beyond its scope. Therefore, the actions of Te Kooti and his followers remain beyond reproach and the killing of seven non-Maori settlers in Mohaka, mainly the Lavin family, is beyond compensation.
Fighting between government forces and Pai Marire in the Napier area, in October 1866, meant all Maori land between the Waikare and Esk rivers was confiscated in January 1867, including lands in which Ngati Pahauwera held interests. An agreement between the government and some Maori about the return of land was signed in May 1868, but never implemented.
The history as written in the deed of settlement is eminently readable, and I would encourage everyone to click on the link and read the deed. (4) However, one would wonder how Ngati Pahauwera’s history would have unfolded if the tribe had formed a company to hold tribal land and leased it to settler farmers, and if there had been no Mohaka massacre.
At some point, income from the leased land would be insufficient to support the numbers of Ngati Pahauwera living there. The return per tribal member would have become so small that most would have moved to work in Napier, and many of the social consequences outlined in the deed, of men who worked away from home becoming disconnected over time from their community and the local culture, of dependence on welfare, of smoking, alcohol and other drugs which have led to social and health problems, would have happened anyway.
A quick comparison with an earlier settlement shows that the Ngati Pahauwera deal is slightly more generous. The 2006 census said the Ngati Pahauwera confederation had a population of 1764, while the tribe’s 2010 beneficiary register records over 3000 people. (5) Only 1149 were concerned enough to vote in the ratification process, with 1132 in favour. Dividing the $20-million by the beneficiary register number of 3000 gives a per tribe member amount of $6666. That compares with Ngai Tahu’s 1996 settlement of $170-million divided by the tribe’s 30,000 members at the time, (6) resulting in a per person amount for Ngai Tahu of $5666.
If Paora Rerepu and the named land owners effectively dispossessed the remainder of their tribe by selling land, the seven trustees named in the deed of settlement face the challenge of managing the $20-million settlement in a way that won’t further dispossess those on the beneficiary register. If they follow the pattern of other tribal corporations, the trustees will undoubtedly grant themselves generous salaries. Those on the tribe’s beneficiary register who are on state-funded welfare will stay on welfare since tribal leaders don’t see welfare as a part of their responsibility. It is not as if the settlement of $20-million would be disbursed as cash or shares to every beneficiary.
The settlement deed assumes that the colonial government was all-powerful during a period in which it was struggling to assert sovereignty. The claim also assumes that the fledgling 19th-century government had the ability to deliver the range of benefits dreamed up by Ngati Pahauwera claimants in the 21st century. The government has been measured against 21st century ethical standards for 19th century deeds and misdeeds.
History is written indelibly through the lives of the people who lived it and no amount of cash, assets, or abject apologies is going to change it. The settlement deed presents Ngati Pahauwera as victims of the last 170 years of history only because successive governments have decided to reward such victims with large amounts of cash. Tribal claimants would be negligent if they did not demand their share of what’s on offer.
How would Ngati Pahauwera’s story rate on an absolute scale of suffering? Think the Holocaust, when six million Jews were murdered in a few years, or the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, or the ongoing situation in Darfur. What scale of compensation would the families of the 29 miners killed at Pike River be entitled to? I would challenge anyone to name a country more generous than New Zealand in paying such a large compensation in such circumstances.
1. Mohaka iwi signs off its settlement, Gisborne Herald. http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/article/?id=20699
2. Deed of Settlement -- initialling version http://ngatipahauwera.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Ngati-Pahauwera-Deed-of-Settlement-Initialli1.pdf
3. Native Land Court created, NZ History Online, http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/timeline/30/10
4. Deed of Settlement -- initialling version http://ngatipahauwera.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Ngati-Pahauwera-Deed-of-Settlement-Initialli1.pdf
5. Agreement in Principle Summary http://nz01.terabyte.co.nz/ots/LiveArticle.asp?ArtID=1989491350
6. Iwi population http://www2.stats.govt.nz/domino/external/pasfull/pasfull.nsf/173371ce38d7627b4c25680900046f25/4c2567ef00247c6acc256b6d0009346f?OpenDocument
at 12:37 PM