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UN representative visits Wairarapa Moana

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples visited Wairarapa Moana at the weekend and met with descendants of customary Māori owners.

UN Special Rapporteur Francisco Cali-Tzay visited Wairarapa on Saturday to hear about the history of the Waitangi Tribunal process for the return of Pouākani lands taken in 1949.

The visit comes as New Zealand’s record is expected to be examined as part of a five-yearly review on April 29 in Geneva.

Kingi Smiler, chair of the Wairarapa Moana Incorporation [WMI], said the two-day visit is the first by a UN Special Rapporteur to the Wairarapa and to Wairarapa Moana in particular.

“The Special Rapporteur visited our Wairarapa Lakes and was told the story of their gifting to the Crown in 1896 in return for land reserves in the Wairarapa, and the trail of broken promises by the Crown that followed,” he said.

This site visit was followed by a hui at Te Rangimarie Marae in Masterton with descendants of the customary Māori owners of Wairarapa Moana, Rangitāne o Wairarapa, Ngai Tūmapūhiaa-rangi hapū, Pouākani hapū, and Mangatu.

“Our whānau spoke out today and told the Special Rapporteur that the Crown’s actions in stopping the Waitangi Tribunal returning our Pouākani lands was a breach of our human rights, and the Treaty of Waitangi, and the significant impact on our whanau over the last 160 years.

“Wairarapa Moana Incorporation has significant support from Iwi Leaders throughout Aotearoa for our call to the international community to encourage the New Zealand government to address this injustice and return our lands.

“This is not an issue that will simply fade over time. We remain resolute in our pursuit of our lands, for justice and for redress.”

The Special Rapporteur’s visit to New Zealand is an academic visit, coming at the request of local groups Wairarapa Moana Incorporation and Wakatū Incorporation, as well as the National Iwi Chairs Forum and Te Kāhui Tika Tangata
Human Rights Commission.

A statement from WMI said the formation of the organisation and the ownership of more than 30,000 acres of land in Mangakino in South Waikato had its origins in the colonisation of the Wairarapa after 1840.

“Wairarapa Moana hapū had valuable landholdings and customary fishing rights for tuna in and around Lake Wairarapa. However, by the late 1800s, continual pressure from farmer settlers and Crown coercion ultimately led to the hapū gifting the lake to the Crown in 1896 in exchange for other lands in the Wairarapa,” it said.

“The Crown did not honour the original agreement and were not prepared to source lands locally in Wairarapa, so in 1915 with great reluctance the hapū leaders at that time accepted the land known as the Pouakani 2 Block in Mangakino.”

In February 2017, WMI lodged a resumption application with the Waitangi Tribunal under the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 for the return of some of the lands taken under the Public Works Act in the 1940s.

In 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that the application before the Waitangi Tribunal should proceed.

“Rather than allow this process to reach a conclusion, the New Zealand Parliament passed legislation which brought an abrupt end to our legal proceedings, and the return of our lands by the Waitangi Tribunal. This action was a breach of our human rights, and te Tiriti o Waitangi,” the statement said.


  1. The UN may have been effective once upon a time, but it has degenerated into a debating club where former colonies do nothing but point the bone at their former colonial masters. ‘Special Rapporteur’? Nothing but an interfering busybody.

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