New Zealand Law Society - Waitangi Tribunal finds serious Treaty breaches in report

Waitangi Tribunal finds serious Treaty breaches in report

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The Crown’s significant breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi caused serious damage to the mana and autonomy of the iwi and hapū of Te Rohe Pōtae (King Country), the Waitangi Tribunal has found.  

The Tribunal has released six chapters comprising part III of “Te Mana Whatu Ahuru: Report on Te Rohe Pōtae Claims”. This follows the release of parts I and II in September 2018. The report addresses 277 claims concerning Crown actions in Te Rohe Pōtae after the Treaty was signed on 6 February 1840.  

This part of the report addresses the land policy and legislation that the Crown imposed after 1900 in Te Rohe Pōtae and the implications these had on Māori, who expected to continue to exercise mana whakahaere, or self-government, over their lands and communities. These expectations reflected guarantees of rangatiratanga contained in the Treaty of Waitangi, as well as the (1883-85) agreements Te Rohe Pōtae Māori made with the Crown, known as Te Ōhākī Tapu, that promised to give effect to the Treaty in the district (and are discussed in detail in part II of the report).  

During the negotiations leading to these agreements, Te Rohe Pōtae Māori were assured that, by allowing the Native Land Court to operate within their rohe from 1886, they could expect to receive a secure form of title that would advance their already substantial engagement with the colonial economy.  

By the end of the 19th century, however, it had become obvious to both Māori and the Crown that the titles and undivided, individual interests the Native Land Court had awarded since its arrival in the district were flawed, facilitated land alienation, and inhibited land development. By 1966, only 18% of the district remained in Māori ownership.  

The chapters in this part of the report examine how the Crown’s legislation and its actions frequently resulted in the alienation of native land in favour of Pākehā settlement. Approaches it applied through legislation included: the continued practice of Crown purchasing of shares in land; the creation of native land councils and later native land boards to act in place of owners; the compulsory vesting of lands in these boards for lease and administration; the establishment of native townships to enable surplus land to be made available for Pākehā settlement; the passing of compulsory consolidation of share interests to reform and simplify titles; the broad discretions given to the Native (later Māori) Land Court to facilitate alienations; the compulsory Europeanisation of land between 1967 and 1974 where there were limited numbers of owners; and the compulsory acquisition of uneconomic share interests

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