Saturday, April 26, 2014
Bruce Moon: Ngai Tahu’s river of cash
1. Ngai Tahu complained that reserves allocated under the Kemp purchase 20 years earlier were inadequate and in 1868 a further 4,930 acres were granted. This was their first settlement.
2 Though Ngai Tahu had declared themselves happy with this settlement, by 1872 they had started to complain again and sent a petition to government with absurd claims such as that they would have been killed if they had not signed Kemp's deed of purchase. Nevertheless the claims were treated seriously, leading to the chief judge of the Land Court stating in 1876 that he could see "no ground whatever ... for [their] position" and that "if [they] were Europeans [there was] no reason why any favourable consideration should be given to [them]." Even so, he recommended that they should be dealt with "in a parental and liberal spirit". This case when there was no merit in a grievance is an example of what the Tribunal found to be acting with "dishonour and injustice ... high-handedness and arrogance". It was not the only time this was the Tribunal's opinion. Really!
Complaints continued until the South Island Landless Natives Act 1906 was passed, 142,463 acres being granted to settle 4063 "landless" tribal members. - the second Ngai Tahu settlement.
Notwithstanding the continual disputes, 250 Ngai Tahu signed an illuminated address to Premier Seddon in 1902 as he was about to depart for the coronation of King Edward VII. This begins: "Right Honourable Sir, ─ As you are about to leave our shores to represent our country at the coronation of our Most Noble King, we therefore (members of the Ngai Tahi tribe) regard this a fitting opportunity to express to you the very high esteem in which you are held by us." With more in this vein, one concluding remark is "your name will ever live in the land of the Maoris" [sic]. One Te Tau of Karitane (old Waikouaiti) at about this time gave his son the Christian names "Richard John Seddon". I knew R.J.S. Te Tau personally
Clearly Ngai Tahu were doing well. A correspondent to the Taranaki Herald in 1909 praises them in saying that they "are vastly more energetic and progressive and aim at higher ideals than do most of the Native people I have met in many parts of the North Island." (1)
3. Complaints continued with one in 1920 by Tiemi Hipi and 916 other Ngai Tahu about the Kemp purchase yet again. In 1944 the Ngai Tahu Claim Settlement Act, described in the act as a full and final settlement, was passed, £300,000 in 30 annual payments of £10,000 being awarded to them. This was their third settlement.
4. When payments were due to cease in 1973, further complaints arose that this settlement had not been discussed widely enough. These were rejected by Whetu Tiurikatene-Sullivan, MP for Southern Maori, who stated that 109 formal resolutions in favour of the compensation offered were accepted at around 80 meetings. Nevertheless annual payments of $20,000 in perpetuity were awarded to the tribe. This was their fourth settlement.
5. When the Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act 1985 was passed allowing claims back to 1840, Henare Rakiihia Tau and the Ngai Tahu Trust Board brought up all their old claims again and added a few more, leading to a payout to the tribe in 1997 of $170 million and numerous other benefits including the right to all the unclaimed greenstone in the South Island. This was their fifth settlement.
6. A "top-up" generously granted by Treaty Negotiations Minister Doug Graham, who appeared intent on throwing away taxpayer money, meant Ngai Tahu last year received their sixth payout, of $68.5-million. I remark that with my acquaintance with members of the tribe over what is approaching 80 years, I do not recall ever once hearing complaints of their being treated unfairly by white members of the community.
The Ngai Tahu agreement, like that of Waikato-Tainui, was reached in an environment in which the government argued that all treaty settlements should total no more than $1-billion dollars, with the settlement cap called a “fiscal envelope”. The relativity clause that the tribe would receive 16.1 percent of anything paid to other tribes that exceeded $1-billion in 1994 dollars. After much prompting, the government conceded that the $1-billion mark was crossed in June last year. Nevertheless, Ngai Tahu is demanding more and has entered arbitration with the Crown over interpretation of the clauses that detail how the relativity payment should be calculated.
Reasonable people might think that, at least where Ngai Tahu are concerned, that is the end of the matter, with the tribal elite living in luxurious style. Regrettably that is far from the case. We are informed that to consider the matter closed is "not the Maori way" so that in future we may expect more and more outrageous claims to which a succession of weak governments will submit as in the recent past.
In view of the fact that Ngai Tahu have already received five settlements, most of them described as "full and final", that the tribe is wanting more than the $68.5-million top-up received last year, that there will be numerous more top-ups as remaining tribes settle. Therefore, Ngai Tahu officials have many reasons to feel optimistic about more in the future.
The first part of this series, "Ngai Tahu as they were", may be read at http://breakingviewsnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/04/bruce-moon-ngai-tahu-as-they-were.html. Part 3, titled "Ngai Tahu claim deceit" will be published here next week.
1. W.W. Smith, Taranaki Herald, LV, 1390, 10th March 1909, p2.
at 11:56 AM