Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mike Butler: Takapuna deal shabby

A row that has erupted over the sale of a $41.7-million block of prime Auckland waterfront land cheaply to Maori as part of a big treaty deal shows the sort of shabby unintended consequences resulting from a flawed attempt to right alleged historical wrongs.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the 3.2ha Takapuna Head site, used by the New Zealand Navy as an officer training school, is being sold back to Ngati Whatua for $13.8-million - but the iwi has been given freedom to do what it likes with the land.

The Navy would pay rent to Ngati Whatua as long as they continued using the site. When the settlement passes into law, the Narrow Neck block will be removed from the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act. The land, on a shared title with a 1.6ha recreation area, is valued at $34.7-million, and the improvements nearly $7-million.

Saying he was never properly consulted, Auckland mayor Len Brown has written to Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson asking for a meeting. He said the settlement would "potentially alienate future public access to the property".
Devonport-Takapuna local board chairman Chris Darby said they were not told of a "secret" meeting between a Conservation official and the Hauraki Gulf Forum, seven months before the block of land was included in the Treaty settlement.

If the valuation of the Takapuna Head land and improvements totals $41.7-million, and if Ngati Whatua o Orakei may buy it for $13.8-million, the tribe is being given $27.9-million of equity in this deal, which far exceeds the official total financial redress for the tribe of $18-million plus interest. This $18-million includes $2-million already received through the railways settlement in 1993, plus a 172-year right-of-first-refusal over surplus Crown properties in the Auckland area.

What is more, the government is prepared to trash the reserve status and the rights of the community to give the iwi a valuable property they want.

If the deal is purportedly to settle historical grievances, what are those grievances? The Ngati Whatua o Orakei settlement rephrases history so that the tribe “transferred” and “lost” land to end up being “virtually landless”. The Crown “failed to protect” pa and urupa, and “failed to set aside one-tenth of the lands transferred for the future use or special benefit of the original owners”, meaning the tribe lost the “ability to exercise mana whenua and participate meaningfully in the growing colony”. What does this all mean?

In fact, Te Taou, a sub-tribe of Ngati Whatua of the Kaipara, that had only occupied the Auckland area since the mid-18th century and were driven out by a Nga Puhi war expedition led by Hongi, Rewa and Patuone in November 1822, were too frightened to live there but happy to SELL large parcels of land to incoming settlers.

The tribe sold around 3500 acres of land that today covers the central city of Auckland, to government officials in September 1840. Over the next two years the tribe sold a further 29,000 acres to the Crown for around £640 plus other goods.

But the colonial government, which had negotiated the monopoly right to buy land from chiefs and on-sell it to settlers, using the profit to fund administration, sold this land attaining a profit of £68,865, sparking a big sense of sellers’ remorse among the vendor chiefs.

Between 1844 and 1845 the Crown waived its sole right to buy land, allowing chiefs to sell to settlers, but enacting regulations to protect Maori. Claimants argued that the Crown did not apply the regulations correctly.

This settlement does not involve a grievance associated with 700 acres of land on the Tamaki isthmus at Orakei, that was settled by the Orakei Act 1991.

The New Zealand Centre for Political Research, which has been analysing treaty grievances for the past decade, has consistently argued that the claims and settlements process is flawed and based on a faulty premise. It seems that when central government bungling starts to have an impact on local government that concerns are taken seriously.

With 30 settlements completed, 16 awaiting legislation, four awaiting tribal ratification, 16 agreed but at the detailed negotiations stage, a further 15 under negotiation, and a number of others yet to be negotiated, there is going to be increasing uproar over these grievance give-aways.

This deal either is shoddy accounting or a shabby sweetheart deal. It is the sort of thing that became inevitable once successive governments offered to pay cash for grievances.

What is required to stop the settlement process spinning further out of control is supervision of the Waitangi Tribunal and Office of Treaty Settlements within the court hierarchy, earlier final settlements, such as those made in the 1940s, to be acknowledged in current settlement values, historical grievances limited to those actually complained about before 1985, and the Waitangi Tribunal to be disestablished once historical claims are settled.


Ray S said...

Shabby is hardly the best description for cases like this one.
Shabby and secret deals between the crown and iwi are nothing new and will continue ad ifinitum irrespective of who is in power. Iwi and their advocates around the country have got the government right where they want them. Settlement deals given the OK by one person (Finlayson) with no right of challenge by the general population. Similar things happened in Europe in the 30's. We all know what was required to stop all that.

Anonymous said...

The Crown’s shabby and secret deal to transfer ownership of Fort Takapuna Reserve to Ngati Whatua, rests entirely on the Crown’s uncritical acceptance of the tribe’s claim to “mana whenua” over the Auckland Isthmus.
As outgoing Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, trenchantly observed in his 1922 farewell address: "In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King, and he that does not know his own history is at the mercy of every lying windbag."

In September 1840, Ngati Whatua “sold” the land on which Auckland City now stands to the Crown for cash and goods. Over the next two years, a further 29, 000 acres were similarly alienated by the tribe. Once something is sold, it’s gone for good, and the seller has no further claim over it.
In any event, like so many early land sales, Ngati Whatua’s ownership claims at the time of sale are tenuous at best.
Ngati Whatua were not the first occupants of the Auckland area. Originally based further north, they colonised the locality around 1750 by exterminating its former occupants, Te Waiohua.

What goes around comes around. In the 1820s, the Tamaki Isthmus was repeatedly invaded by musket-toting Ngapuhi. The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand records that as a result: “much of the isthmus was abandoned as tribes sought shelter in the Tainui region.”

Historian, RCJ Stone, notes: “fear of Ngapuhi prevented them [Ngati Whatua] from occupying their old home for many years afterwards, indeed, not until Auckland was founded [in 1840] did they feel safe.”

Ngati Whatua thus “sold” to the Crown land they’d cravenly vacated more than a decade before. This was land they no longer occupied or controlled in any meaningful sense. The sale placed the Governor and his troops between Ngati Whatua returnees and renewed hostilities from Ngapuhi. As well, payment from the Crown underscored to neighbouring tribes that the mana of the land “remained” with Ngati Whatua.

While a clever stroke of business from both a practical and a Maori perspective, this hardly supports demands from Aucklanders of Anglo-Ngati Whatua descent for political and economic control over Auckland's iconic public landmarks.

Barry T said...

All "treaty claims" are shabby and dishonest

David Hill said...

In the 1840s my great great grandfather bought from local Maori land and established a farm in the Hunia Ranges south of Auckland.The road where he lived still bears his name John Hill Road.
He cleared the land of scrub and bush built a home and established an income by farming cattle for the growing Auckland market.
In the 1860s during the Maori land wars his land was invaded, the house was burnt down after everything was stolen then the cattle were also stolen or slaughtered. He never recieved a peny in compensation he just returned after the war and rebuilt.
I often wonder if I could claim compensation from the Waikato tribes who devistated his home.
(Yeah Right)

Laurie said...

Before the coming of Europeans Maoris tribes did not own land. They only held on to areas they lived on until another stronger tribe came along and took it from them. This custom had been going on for hundreds of years. Nowadays the Maoris have title to land and guaranteed ownership of same by the power of the State until, of course, we are not invaded by a stronger foreign power.

Anonymous said...

On 31 March 2012, I attended Finlayson's publice meeting at the Navy Gymnasium, Takapuna Head, to discuss the upcoming transfer of Fort Takapuna to Ngati Whatua o Orakei.

This was misrepresented to attendees as part of a round of public consultation. We were also told the public would have the opportunity to make submissions before the proposed transfer went to Parliament for ratification or rejection.

Turns out the Crown and Ngati Whatua o Orakei already stitched up an agreement in late 2010 to the effect that the tribe would get the land.

So it is a "done deal." Anything the public has to say on the matter won't make a blind bit of difference to the prearranged outcome.

In response to a question from the floor, Tiwana Tibble, Chairman of Ngati Whatua o Orakei Trust Board, advised the meeting that the Trust has "around 5, 000 beneficiaries."

Finlayson and his liberal apologist mates have made a call that the demands of "around 5, 000" Aucklanders of Anglo-Ngati Whatua descent should trump the rights of 1.3 million other Aucklanders (and more specifically 230, 000 residents of the former North Shore City) to their public open space.