Speaking to Moriori spokesman Maui Solomon about the passing of the Moriori Claims Settlement Bill, Ferguson tastefully avoided any mention of the invasion of the Moriori homeland Rekohu (aka the Chatham Islands) in 1835 by the Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama tribes from Taranaki, who killed or displaced an estimated 95 per cent of the peaceable resident people and enslaved the survivors. You might call it a “don’t mention the war” moment.
Most listeners would have been wondering, like me, why the Crown (in other words, the taxpayer) is compensating Moriori for events that occurred five years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed – events the Crown wasn’t implicated in, had no control over and for which it therefore bore no responsibility.
But that question wasn’t asked. Instead, Ferguson asked Solomon whether the $18 million in the settlement package was enough.
“It’s never enough,” came the reply. “We asked for much more, but how do you compensate [for] genocide?”
I should make it clear here that I’m not getting at Solomon, still less minimising the enormity of what happened to the Moriori. No one could begrudge them the return of their waahi tapu (which is also part of the settlement package), nor quibble about the significance of Parliament’s acknowledgment of their existence after they were for so long effectively written out of our history.
But the genocide – which is exactly what it was – wasn’t the Crown’s doing, and it seems only fair to ask why the Crown should be taking the rap for it. I would have been genuinely interested in hearing Solomon’s explanation, but we weren’t given the chance.
Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion newspaper. He blogs at karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz.