Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mike Butler: Tribes clash over settlement spoils

Tribes clashing over settlement spoils seemed inevitable. One such clash between the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust and Ngati Toa over Wellington commercial properties played out last week before the Waitangi Tribunal. The row involves a last-minute land swap done by the Office of Treaty Settlements - taking the Wellington central police station from the trust in exchange for land in Greta Point and Kelburn so they could offer the police station to Ngati Toa.

Inclusion of the police station in the Ngati Toa deal, along with the Police College and surplus Kenepuru Hospital land, was announced on February 12, 2009. Ngati Toa had expressed concern in 2008 that the Port Nicholson trust was getting all the best Wellington land, the tribunal was told.

The main issue is whether the trust, which represents 14,000 Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika claimants, was told that Ngati Toa would be offered right of first refusal on other central Wellington property as part of its settlement package. The trust’s deed specifies “certain” property.

But both parties say there was no stoush between the two Maori groups, claiming both had been misled by the Office of Treaty Settlements leading up to the Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika deed that was signed on August 19, 2008, but passed into law on September 2, 2009.

The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust was established to receive and manage Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika’s $25-million settlement. Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika is a group of people who descend from the Te Atiawa, Taranaki, Ngati Ruanui and Ngati Tama chiefs who lived in the Port Nicholson area in 1840.

Ngati Toa has agreed upon but has not received a settlement package that involves financial redress of $40-million and extensive cultural redress. The tribe is at the detailed negotiations phase of the process.

Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika received financial redress of $25.025-million cash plus interest, plus the right for 10 years to buy and lease back the land under Archives New Zealand, the National Library of New Zealand, the High Court, and Wellington Girls’ College. The group also gained a 100-year right of first refusal to buy Crown land, entities and State-owned enterprises when such become surplus, a two-year right to certain surplus Crown owned properties, and a six-month right to buy surplus Defence Force and Corrections properties at Shelly Bay.

A split appeared among Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust members this year with the Te Atiawa faction’s Waiwhetu Marae saying the trust lost $3-million last year and cash reserves were heavily depleted. Waiwhetu Runanga chief executive Kara Puketapu, who was a former Maori Affairs secretary, resigned from the settlement trust in 2009 over allocation of the settlement proceeds. Waiwhetu Marae chairman Kura Moeahu accused the trust of poor financial management and called for a separation of social and commercial operations to prevent internal political interference.

The trust claims “mana whenua” or traditional authority over the Wellington area but are, with Ngati Toa, among a number of tribal entities with their hands out for Wellington assets. In fact, the ancestors of both tribal groupings were, in 1840, relatively recent arrivals in the Wellington area. The trust tribes had fled Taranaki to escape Waikato brutality in 1831, and Ngati Toa left Kawhia for Kapiti in 1821, also retreating from Waikato savagery.

Ngati Toa conquered the people around Wellington and the northern South Island with two significant battles fought on the island in Island Bay in 1821 and 1827. Part of Ngati Toa financial redress includes a payment of $10-million in recognition of the Crown’s actions in undermining the maritime authority exercised by Ngati Toa over the Cook Strait region.

Te Atiawa chiefs Te Puni and Te Wharepouri sold the 209,000-acre Port Nicholson block to the New Zealand Company in 1839 for 120 muskets, gunpowder, iron pots and an array of merchandise that was divided among six Maori settlements around the harbour. Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha objected to Te Atiawa selling the area because he felt that the latter could only live in the area by his permission.

An investigation by a Crown-appointed land claims commissioner in 1842 revealed deficiencies in the company’s purchase. The Crown agreed to a process whereby Maori would release their interests in 67,000 acres of land to the company in exchange for compensation of £1500. In 1848, a Crown grant was issued to the New Zealand Company covering not just the 67,000 acres but the whole of the Port Nicholson block, said to contain around 209,000 acres. Maori signatories to the Port Nicholson deed retained 20,000 acres of reserves.

Those reserves have continued to generate income for the past 164 years and what remains of them are under the control of the Wellington Tenths Trust, which is chaired by the same person who was the first chair of the Port Nicholson Block Trust -- Sir Ngatata Love, according to the Tenths Trust website. He was a professor of business development at Victoria University of Wellington's management school.

Assets owned by the Wellington Tenths Trust include the Village at the Park, which is a retirement village with hospital facilities on the former Athletic Park site in Newtown, a multi storied commercial property in Pipitea St, a development site in Lambton Quay, the old museum building jointly owned with Massey University, land under South Wellington Intermediate, and various blocks of land leased out.

Those older readers may recall that when the Treaty of Waitangi Act was amended in 1985 to consider grievances back to 1840, Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer said that he “did some research on the outstanding grievances and it did not appear that looking into them would open a can of worms, which many feared” and that he “took the view that the claims may take a decade to deal with”.

Here we are 27 years later and we are not yet half way through the list of claims and more than $1.5-billion has been transferred in settlements. The dispute between the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust and Ngati Toa shines a light on an expensive can of worms.


Ray S said...

Your research into these issues and publishing here for public consumption does you proud and thank you for it. However, myself and thousands of other like minded people continually search for a way to stop the on going handover of the country to part maori elite who to date have made little or no effort to improve the lot of maori generally. Identifying the issues as you do must also give you some idea as to where it is all heading and what can be done to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Ray S

Vote for Labour or National and nothing will change.

Sam said...

Then along came Sir Douglas, who in his commercial glory and once and for all showing his his prowess as a businessman and a respected leader of this nation did the following. He signed the taxpayer up to a deal that would make Fay Ritchwhite green with envy. The aforementioned clown inked a =n agreement that allowed Ngai Tahu to claim on the NZ taxpayer if the prices for their commodities (given up by the taxpayer) fell below a profitable level. That sucker should have been thrown so far back in jail they would have had to pump sunshine into him when we had the chance!!