Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mike Butler: The Ngati Kuia settlement -- healing old wounds or making new mistakes?

Another South Island tribe, Ngati Kuia, has resolved historical grievances with the Crown over an area in which overlapping tribal interests have led to an earlier settlement creating a further grievance and a recommendation for compensation. The settlement, signed at Canvastown on the Saturday afternoon of Labour weekend, consists of $24-million in commercial redress, an apology for historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the return of culturally significant sites and other crown properties. Since the Ngati Kuia settlement has had no scrutiny by politicians or commentators, and since it was released in a news dead zone, here are the facts and some comment.

Ngati Kuia’s claim, Wai 561, relates to the New Zealand Company purchase in 1839-1841, of 201,000 acres in Tasman Bay, some of which became the city of Nelson, and the subsequent Spain commission inquiry; the tribe’s exclusion from the 10 per cent of land that the New Zealand Company set aside for Maori inhabitants there; Crown purchases in the Wairau, Kaikoura, and Arahura; and the Waipounamu purchase. Ngati Kuia claimed that they were left with inadequate land and resources. The claim relates to dealings of the Native Land Court; issues surrounding natural resources and the environment; marine and customary fisheries, as well as socio-economic and health issues. The claim also alleges a lack of consultation by the Crown prior to alienating land to overseas investors. (1)

Ngati Kuia were the first of the eight tribes in the Nelson–Marlborough, or Te Tau Ihu, region to complete their settlement. The others are Ngati Apa and Rangitane (Kurahaupo tribes), Ngati Toarangatira, Ngati Koata and Ngati Rarua (Tainui tribes), and Ngati Tama and Te Ati Awa (Taranaki tribes). The name “Te Tau Ihu” means the prow of Maui’s canoe, the mythological representation of the South Island.

Maori have lived in the Nelson region since the 1300s. Tribes, mainly from the North Island, successively ousted those already in residence. Ngati Kuia arrived in the late 1790s with Ngai Tahu from the West Coast, and Rangitane from eastern Nelson–Marlborough, and Ngati Apa, who were assisted by North Island forces from the Rangitikei and Kapiti areas (Kurahaupo tribes). Paramount chief Te Rauparaha’s confederation – Ngati Tama and Te Ati Awa from Taranaki, and Tainui tribes Ngati Toa, Ngati Koata and Ngati Rarua overwhelmed the Kurahaupo tribes in 1828.(2)

About 1500 Maori lived in Te Tau Ihu region in 1840, with about 400 in Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. About 4000 people registered an affiliation to the three Kurahaupo iwi in the 2006 Census.

Large-scale settler purchases of the top of the South Island began in 1839, when, on December 13, William Wakefield of the New Zealand Company paid ₤100 to a Mrs Blenkinsop for all her rights and claims to the Wairau Valley, which her deceased husband claimed he bought from Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha in return for a gun which Blenkinsop spiked before handing it over. (3)

In November 1841, chiefs at Kaiteriteri were reluctant to give up the land to New Zealand Company settlers but eventually agreed that Te Rauparaha had sold Wakefield the land and accepted gifts of two axes, one gun, gunpowder, blankets, tobacco, biscuits and pipes for each of the 12 chiefs. Chiefs from nearby Wakapuaka asked for the same number of gifts and received one third of the amount demanded. (3)

A dispute between New Zealand Company settlers and Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata of Ngati Toa over Wairau Valley escalated to bloodshed on June 17, 1843, when 22 Europeans and four Maori died in a skirmish over land in the Wairau Valley, 25km from Nelson. The colonists foolishly tried to arrest the battle-hardened Maori leaders and their fighters. Four Maori and 22 settlers were killed – 12 settlers were murdered after surrendering. (4)

English lawyer William Spain was tasked to investigate the New Zealand Company's claims that it had purchased 20 million acres in 1839. Spain went along with a New Zealand Company suggestion to compensate those Maori who had missed out on the general payments made in 1839. The New Zealand Company gave a further £800 for land in the area. (5)

Governor Robert FitzRoy issued only two Crown grants on the basis of Spain's awards because of Maori opposition to occupation of the other lands and their demands for further substantial payments. The two Crown grants were for Wellington and for 151,000 acres for the establishment of Nelson.

Subsequent Crown purchases of northern South Island land are detailed in Alan Ward’s Rangahaua Whanui Reports National Overview. Governor George Grey paid £3000 for some three million acres including all the disputed Wairau Valley but also the Kaikoura Coast as far as Kaiapoi from Ngati Toa chiefs in Porirua, in March 1847. Reserves of over 117,000 acres were made. The first instalment of the Wairau purchase money was spent by the three signing chiefs for their own benefit. Ngati Rarua and Rangitane occupants were refusing to quit the lands several years later. Ngai Tahu, who had interests in Kaiapoi and northward, were not consulted. (6)

In March 1859, Chief Land Purchase Officer Donald McLean completed the Kaikoura purchase, estimated at 2.8-million acres, for £300 and 5558 acres of reserves, which extinguished Ngai Tahu rights in land that Grey had bought from Ngati Toa in 1847. (7)

In May 1859, McLean bought the Arahura block from Poutini Ngai Tahu who had not been adequately represented in the Kemp purchase negotiations of 1848, acquiring rights in some seven million acres for an additional £300, plus a quite unusually large area of reserves (6724 acres plus 3500 acres for educational reserves and 2000 acres for survey costs).

McLean completed the Waipounamu purchase begun under Grey in 1853, although he did not hold a meeting with resident South Island sub-tribe agreed to when the initial deed was signed with Ngati Toa chiefs in Wellington. A year later he paid another £2000 to Ngati Toa to join him on successive visits to local tribes in 1855 and 1856, and press them into signing deeds and accepting reserves. Smaller blocks were acquired at that time.

One fact often overlooked is that chiefs wanted to sell land. They pestered settlers, speculators, and Governor William Hobson to buy land, and the Treaty of Waitangi’s second article, describing the Crown’s sole right to buy land from Maori, known as “pre-emption”, was often regarded by chiefs as a promise by the Crown to buy land. Tribes clearly owned land they occupied and cultivated, and had competing claims for uncultivated land that supplied food, building materials, clothing, medicines, and personal adornments. Chiefs had numerous reasons for wanting to sell, and a sale brought a flush of immediate wealth.

Will the Ngati Kuia settlement heal old wounds for a “shy, quiet” tribe that had been “elbowed aside” by more powerful rivals, or is it a new chapter in a history of permanent grievance? The Waitangi Tribunal is a permanent commission of inquiry so those who are holding their breath for it all to be over when the National-led government settles historical treaty claims by 2014 will be disappointed since the process is on-going -- it will still be going on when our children are grandparents.

An interesting aspect of the Ngati Kuia settlement is that since northern South Island tribes lost the ability to recover their interests in lands which had been vested in Ngai Tahu as a result of that tribe’s earlier $170-million settlement, the Waitangi Tribunal “strongly” recommended that the Crown take “urgent action” to ensure that these breaches did not continue. It also recommended that the Crown negotiate with those northern South Island tribes identified in the report as having customary interests within the statutorily defined Ngai Tahu takiwa to agree on equitable compensation. (8) That’s right, the Ngai Tahu settlement created another grievance.

Another question relates to the scale of the settlement. If the seven other northern South Island tribes achieve settlements of $24-million each, the total amount of $192-million will exceed the 1997 Ngai Tahu settlement of $170-million related to the sale and purchase of 34.5-million acres. Since the total area of the South Island is 37.3-million acres, theoretically $192-million could be paid to settle claims relating to 2.8-million acres. If so, I’m sure Ngai Tahu will be back demanding a top-up.


1. Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui: Report on Northern South Island Claims
WAI 561
2. Carl Walrond. 'Nelson region - Māori history', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Sep-10
3. Burns, Patricia, and Henry Richardson. 1989. Fatal success -- a history of the New Zealand Company. Auckland, N.Z.: Heinemann Reed, p121-22
4. Ibid, p233
5. Tonk, Rosemarie V. 'Spain, William 1803 - 1876'. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007 URL:
6. Alan Ward. Rangahaua Whanui Reports National Overview.
7. Ibid, p146
8. Report summary{64E70DAB-3923-4B91-98D7-CEB5B723E3F4}

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The sins of our fathers will never be forgiven.
By the time NZ becomes totally browned through interbreeding, (Hone's daughters excluded of course) our descendants will be claiming off each other. The tribal system will again be alive and well.
It is long overdue that this grievance BS end.