The Waitangi Tribunal has released its Horowhenua: the Muaūpoko Priority Report, in which it upheld a number of claims that the Crown breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The report concerns 30 claims relating to Muaūpoko, an iwi of the lower North Island. The claims of Muaūpoko focused on their lands at Horowhenua and their treasured taonga, Lake Horowhenua and the Hōkio Stream.
The Tribunal heard these claims as a priority in 2015-16, at the request of claimants, in order to provide a report before settlement negotiations were well advanced. The Crown assisted the inquiry by making a number of significant concessions of Treaty breach. These included concessions that some legislation and Crown acts have prejudiced Muaūpoko, and that they were made virtually landless, in breach of the Treaty.
The Tribunal accepted the Crown concessions and identified several other important Treaty breaches in relation to Muaūpoko’s Horowhenua lands. The Tribunal concluded that the Native Land Court and the individualisation of tribal land were imposed on Muaūpoko in the 1870s, and that the Crown purchased the Levin township site in the 1880s in a way which was significantly unfair to Muaūpoko.
The Tribunal also found that Muaūpoko were subjected to a number of significant Treaty breaches in the 1890s, which deprived them of their lands in a way that was fundamentally unfair. By the end of the twentieth century, they had been rendered landless.
The Tribunal also found serious Treaty breaches in relation to Crown actions and omissions in respect of Lake Horowhenua and the Hōkio Stream. In the early 1900s, the Crown made Lake Horowhenua, the bed of which belonged to Muaūpoko, a public recreation reserve, giving control of it to a domain board.
The Tribunal found that this was done without the full agreement of the Muaūpoko owners, and that a series of significant Treaty breaches followed in the way the lake has been controlled and administered, including an inadequate attempt by the Crown to remedy these matters in 1956. The Tribunal also found that the Crown took an unusually active role in respect of Lake Horowhenua and the Hōkio Stream, and that the Crown was complicit in the pollution and environmental degradation of both taonga.
To put matters right, the Tribunal recommended that the Crown negotiate with Muaūpoko a Treaty settlement that will address the harm suffered, and that the settlement include a contemporary Muaūpoko governance structure with responsibility for the administration of the settlement.
The Tribunal further recommended that the Crown legislate as soon as possible for a contemporary Muaūpoko governance structure to act as kaitiaki for Lake Horowhenua and the Hōkio Stream, and associated waters and fisheries. This will require the Crown to undertake detailed negotiations with the Lake Horowhenua Trustees, the lake bed owners, and all of Muaūpoko.
The Tribunal recommended that the Crown provide to the new Lake Horowhenua Muaūpoko governance structure annual appropriations to assist it to meet its kaitiaki obligations in accordance with its legislative obligations.