Waitangi Tribunal Report (Te Paparahi o te Raki Stage 1 - Wai 1040) creates a challenge to our national identity. 

by Kevin McBride.

There has been much space given in our media of late to commemorations relating to World War I. From time to time, there have been references to the importance of this war in establishing the identity of our nation. However, the findings and conclusions of the Waitangi Tribunal in releasing Stage 1 of Wai 1040 are much more significant in that they focus on an alternative and more authentic viewpoint of the beginnings of the nation.

In the first place, the Tribunal has heard in a comprehensive fashion the historical perspective of the Tangata Whenua, the indigenous people who preceded colonisation. More importantly, it has acknowledged the credibility of that viewpoint. This founds the identity of the nation in the recalled experience of those people and their relationship with the physical, spiritual and environmental values which made them unique.

The Tribunal has also recorded the intentions of Ngapuhi signatories in making a declaration of independence or sovereignty, He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (1835), in line with other nations of the time (cf US Declaration of Independence 1776) and it links that document to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, signed by them and many others in 1840. Clearly, they and other Maori signatories at the time and later intended to invite Queen Victoria to join the nation proclaimed in 1835 by exercising Kawanatanga (governance) over her own people, thus bringing her into the component Hapu of the 1835 nation.

In short, this means that the identity of this nation extends far beyond 1915, when our troops were part of the ill-fated attack on Gallipoli and back even beyond the celebrated signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840. It is built on the mana and all its associated values and history which the signatories of He Wakaputanga brought to Waitangi on 28 October 1835.

There is no doubt in my mind that, unlike the Minister of Treaty Relations, we have to take this report seriously and re-examine the commonly-accepted history on which we have built our identity. I am also convinced that, in doing this, we will become enriched as a nation and more ready to face other challenges like climate change and growing inequalities among our now-diversified people, for the values of the people on whom the nation was really founded were very firmly based on the common good and the sustainability of the resources needed to maintain and enhance it.

Right of First Refusal: Calling the Crown to Act with Honour.

by Dr Susan Healy

In 1840, Ngāti Whātua invited Governor Hobson to establish his seat of government on their land adjacent to the Waitemata Harbour. Their intention was a flourishing centre, bringing advantage to Ngāti Whātua and new settlers. Sadly, the Governors and the Government soon lost sight of working in partnership with Ngāti Whatua. Decisions were made and legislation passed that caused Ngāti Whātua huge losses of land. The injustice of what happened is well recorded in the Waitangi Tribunal’s Orakei Report. Similar processes by the Crown meant that Waikato-Tainui wrongfully lost land in South Auckland. As part of the Crown’s recompense to these iwi, they were granted right of first refusal on Crown properties in their respective territories. 

What is the “right of first refusal” and what lies behind it? Put simply, a group with right of first refusal on a property has the first option to buy the property when it becomes available for sale. If they turn down that option, then the property can go on the open market. The Crown’s Settlements with any iwi are acknowledged to be very small in relation to the value of the lands originally taken. Legislation in 1992 had established that private land could not be used in the settlement of treaty claims, and often the amount of Crown land immediately available is limited. That is why a number of the Settlements include a clause stating that an iwi will have right of first refusal over Crown property before it is put on the open market. 

In this year’s Budget the Government announced that it would be making Crown land available to private developers for the purpose of housing. In doing this they overlooked the iwi with right of first refusal. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Housing have since claimed that the Government has the legal right to go ahead with their proposal. This is obviously going to be tested in the Courts. However, their emphasis on being legally in the right completely ignores the issue of whether what they propose is morally right. The Courts have made it very clear that the Crown, that is the Government, is obliged to act as a Treaty partner. On this the Crown’s honour depends. 

Partnership means entering into conversations with your partner about future developments long before they are presented as settled policy; it means working together on common concerns. Ngāti Whātua have made it very clear they are interested in being part of housing development that will benefit a wide range of people. They are committed to the welfare of Auckland city. Those of us who are not Māori might well find that solutions proposed by Ngāti Whātua are much more in line with our sense of common good than those put forward by a government situated in Wellington. Certainly, if the Government had taken seriously its Treaty partnership with Ngāti Whātua and Waikato-Tainui, some of Auckland’s housing issues would not be facing the present delays. 

Please stop by again. Thank you for your interest!