A grovelling apology by the Crown delivered to Far North tribe Ngati Kuri at Ngataki on Friday, February 7, 2014, featured in a settlement that includes financial redress of $21.04-million. Ngati Kuri, one of five tribes whose traditional area is the region from the Hokianga Harbour to Mangonui, north, claims 5757 tribal members. The “egregious”, failures by the Crown being “settled” relate to:
1. An alleged failure by government agents to include Ngati Kuri when it bought the 86,885-acre Muriwhenua South block in 1858, reserving “only”100 acres for Maori use.It appears that every event that occurred in the relationship between the government and Ngati Kuri since 1840 has been turned into a grievance and those grievances will disappear with the payment of $21.04-million plus cultural redress.
2. Passing the Native Land Act 1865 “without consulting Ngati Kuri, giving rights to individuals and allowing for the conversion of aboriginal title to freehold title”.
3. Vesting, by 1875, by the Native Land Court of four land blocks totalling 78,000 acres in 10 or fewer Ngati Kuri owners who went on to sell this land.
4. An assertion in 1875 by the government of ownership of Cape Maria van Diemen as part of Muriwhenua transaction in 1840.
5. The building of a lighthouse in 1877 at Cape Maria van Diemen that allegedly desecrated an ancient burial place.
6.The award by the Native Land Court in 1896 of the 60,000-acre Parengarenga and Pakohu blocks) to 500 individuals.
7. The cost of surveying the land left those owners with substantial survey debts.
8. The Crown-appointed Maori Land Board leased the land to pay the survey that was repaid by 1910, although the land was not returned to the control of the owners for more than three decades, despite requests from the owners.
9. Under the administration of the Land Board, Ngati Kuri lived on three reserves totalling less than 2000 acres.
10.Ngati Kuri's main papakainga at Te Hapua did not have a consistent water supply or all-weather road access for too long.
11. With little access to adequate health care, one in four children at Te Hapua died before age five, while te community suffered malnutrition, typhoid and tuberculosis.
12. Acknowledging that it had concluded that Te Hapu lands were unsuitable for development, the government encouraging Ngati Kuri to leave Te Hapua.
13. This exodus impeded an inter-generational transfer of Ngati Kuri knowledge, and contributed to a decline in the use of the Maori language.
14. The Crown acknowledged that when it helped develop the Parengarenga lands in the 1950s Ngati Kuri were deprived of control of their land for decades, and the Maori Trustee bought individual shares from owners, retaining a significant shareholding in the Parengarenga Incorporation.
15. The Crown also acknowledged that in the 1960s, when it wished to establish the Spirits Bay public campground, it pressured Ngati Kuri to leave the Kapo Wairua papakainga by fencing off their living areas, "causing great spiritual and emotional pain".
A little context is required. Aside from the fact that Ngati Kuri did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi but are able to claim the benefits that treaty brought, their numbers were few. The 1881 census listed 1767 at Mangonui and this covered five tribes. There may have been only 350 Ngati Kuri in 1881.
Multiple ownership of land, where one vendor would say he or she owned an area of land, then others would appear also claiming ownership, posed a problem for land purchase agents before 1865. The Native Land Act 1865 aimed to solve that problem by setting up a detailed court process to determine land ownership. Subsequent land sales had a certificate to show that vendors understood the terms of the sale, and carried another certificate to show no fraud had taken place.
The Ngati Kuri grievance regarding the Native Land Court, that it vested four land blocks totalling 78,000 acres in 10 or fewer Ngati Kuri owners who went on to sell that land, is silent on the fact that their Ngati Kuri forebears sold the land and took the money. The grievance puts all blame on the government of the day and avoids admitting any responsibility by their forebears.
Another possibility is that the mandated Ngati Kuri claimant group receiving the $21.04-million plus may descend from members of the Parengarenga Incorporation, and may descend from the 10 or fewer Ngati Kuri owners who sold four land blocks totalling 78,000 acres soon after 1875. If that is so, these family groups would have sold and benefited, benefited again, and gone on to benefit yet again by being able to allege Crown acts and omissions.
In a newspaper article on the Crown apology delivered by Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson last Friday, reproduced in the New Zealand Herald, was high on rhetoric. One word used in the report was “egregious”, a word that means “outstandingly bad or shocking”.
But that article is short on context. The “outstandingly bad or shocking” alleged acts and omissions by the Crown actually took place within the context of settlement proceeding by consent, with all land used by settlers being purchased. In fact, the British (government and settlers) bought 24.1-million hectares of New Zealand’s total land area of 26.8-million hectares
The really “outstandingly bad or shocking” acts and omissions characterised earlier British colonisation, before 1840 and in other countries, and that involved taking land, importing slaves for labour, and gunning down unwilling natives, circumstances the newly humanitarian British of 1840 wished to avoid. After all, the British Empire was built on land taken through war, and upon resources taken by force.
It appears that settlements like this one awarding $21.04-million to Far North tribe Ngati Kuri can only proceed by talking up the grievances. Words like “egregious” turn up the heat and shed little light.
1. Apology to Ngati Kuri for 'egregious failures', NZ Herald, February 11, 2014 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/northland-age/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503402&objectid=11199913
2. Ngati Kuri settlement summary, http://nz01.terabyte.co.nz/ots/DocumentLibrary/NgatiKuriSettlementinitiallingsummary.pdf