A $35 million top up
Opinion piece by Roger Childs
Most New Zealanders will be incredulous about this announcement from Treaty Negotiations Minister, Andrew Little, earlier this week. These allocations – $16.6 million and $18.7 million, are in addition to payments of $190,000,000 and $180,000,000 made in December last year to Waikato/Tainui and Ngai Tahu respectively.
All this money which has been handed over has nothing to do with grievances against the state. In the Minister’s double-speak: The Crown is committed to honouring the contractual nature of the Relativity Mechanism clauses …
Since the Waitangi Tribunal was set up in 1975, it has authorised settlements of between $3 -$4 billion dollars to iwi and it’s not finished yet. The government, on behalf of the taxpayer, has dutifully signed the cheques.
Where’s it gone?
With all this money passed on to the part-Maori leaders of present day tribes, one wonders why tens of thousands of the descendants of the early Polynesian settlers are still living in poverty.
Certainly iwi business interests, which have special tax concessions as well, have been doing well and their assets now have a value of tens of billions of dollars.
New Zealanders may wonder why all this cash is still being handed over and will it ever a stop.
Once the large, pending Ngapuhi settlement is made, Waikato/Tainui and Ngai Tahu will get a further top up.
Does history back up the process?
Many people struggle to understand why these handouts go on and on. Is it compensation for confiscations after the North Island Civil War? No, these were largely sorted out in the 1920s and 1940s.
How about breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi? If you read what the Treaty said in 1840, there may have been some Crown actions which infringed the document, however there were many tribal breaches including the murders of settlers and prisoners, and rebellion.
One of the greatest of all Maori in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sir Apirana Ngata, said in 1940 at the centenary celebrations of the signing:
… but for the seal of the sovereignty handed over to Her Majesty and her descendants I doubt that there would be a free Maori race in New Zealand today. … This gentlemen’s agreement called the Treaty of Waitangi on the whole hasn’t been badly observed.
However, do the two recipients of the top ups have a case for on-going funding?
Ngai Tahu: invaders from the North
The tribe crossed Cook Strait probably sometime in the 17th century and over the decades they slaughtered the Ngatimamoe and Waitaha people, and exterminated the Tumatakokori tribe who had seen Tasman arrive in Golden Bay in 1642.
There was no fighting in the South Island while rebel Maori were fighting the government in Taranaki, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. Consequently there was no land confiscated.
Settlements with the Crown are many and date back to 1868.
1868 – 4930 acres were handed over by the government.
- 1906 – Under the South Island Landless Natives Act 142,463 acres were passed on to the tribe.
- 1944 – The Ngai Tahu Claim Settlement Act £300,000 was awarded in what the Act called a full and final settlement.
- 1973 – Annual payments of $20,000 were agreed.
- 1997 – $170,000,000 was approved by the Waitangi Tribunal and rights to unclaimed South Island greenstone.
- Early 20th century there was a further payout of $68,000,000
Then you’ve got the recent top ups of nearly $200 million.
Waikato/Tainui: rebels who suffered land confiscations
These iwi set up a Maori “king” in the late 1850s and the man selected was the elderly, legendary warrior, Te Wherowhero. He had previously worked with the government and wanted to live in peace with the British settlers.
Unfortunately after his death, some of the Kingites got involved in fighting in Taranaki and the new “king” Tawhiao had delusions of grandeur, and claimed to rule everything from North Cape to the south end.
He would not swear allegiance to Queen Victoria and insisted that he was a monarch in his own right. This was a clear breach of the Treaty: the sovereignty of New Zealand was held by Queen Victoria.
Although both Governors Browne and Grey offered wide local government (runanga) powers for the Waikato and surrounding districts, and many of his fellow chiefs supported the idea, Tawhiao remained stubborn.
The rest is history: government forces put down the Kingite rebellion and land was confiscated. Grey and later Native Ministers offered to return much of this land, but again despite the support for this idea from other chiefs like Rewi Maniapoto, Tawhaio would not swear allegiance.
Should the country keep paying out?
Opinions will vary, but at the bar of history, it is hard to justify.