Ngati Kahungunu whanau at Parliament bear witness to the first reading of the iwi’s treaty settlement bill on May 11, 2022. PHOTOS/HAGEN HOPKINS
Reading at Parliament celebrated
The first reading of an historic treaty settlement for Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa marked a step forward in a decades-long redress process.
More than 100 people who whakapapa to the Wairarapa iwi travelled to Parliament last week to witness the Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Treaty Settlement Bill pass its first reading.
Many of those in attendance brought photos of loved ones who had not survived to see redress.
The bill passed with 109 votes in support, more than 30 years after the process was initiated.
The bill would give effect to a deed of settlement signed on October 29, 2021, which included a Crown apology for historical treaty breaches and cultural and financial redress valued at $115 million.
The bill would vest the Castlepoint Scenic Reserve in the settlement trust to be gifted back to the Crown by the iwi.
Negotiator and settlement trust chairman Haami Te Whaiti said it was a milestone for Ngati Kahungunu, representing decades of hard work.
“Our sights have always been set on a settlement that benefits our iwi for today and future generations too.”
Despite some setbacks, Te Whaiti said the reading marked a step closer to realising that dream.
“I could not have been prouder to be standing in Parliament.
“There are still a few clouds hanging around us, but we need to enjoy the moment. It is definitely something to celebrate,” he said.
Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Treaty Settlement Bill was not without contention, with concerns currently making their way through the Supreme Court.
In November, the Waitangi Tribunal issued a decision urging the Crown to halt the process until the legal cases had concluded.
It said the process had not complied with treaty principles.
The Green Party abstained from voting due to the ongoing legal battles, with Maori Development spokeswoman Dr Elizabeth Kerekere saying that while the iwi had acted in good faith and had the party’s support, there were major concerns about the Crown’s process.
She said disagreements between hapu and iwi played out in most, if not all, settlement claims as the process was designed to pit groups against each other, “layering new intergenerational trauma over the settler colonialism”.
“Whilst treaty settlements are rarely if ever tidy and unanimously agreed to, the concerns with this settlement are actually significantly greater than usual.”
However, she was hopeful the issues would be resolved during the select committee process.
Te Whaiti said it was difficult to predict what the Crown would do in light of the legal action but said the settlement had “very good support” from iwi.
The deed was ratified with participation from a third of the iwi’s eligible voting members. The settlement was signed with 72 per cent approval.
“We’re still needing to and wanting to strive for unification,” Te Whaiti said, emphasising that it was important to reach that point before the end of the process.
Fellow settlement trust negotiator Robin Potangaroa said while the reading was a huge achievement, it was “but one step in a march of ten thousand”.
“Hand on heart, we have a good settlement,” he said.
“For those of us who have been close to the grindstone, it’s taken its toll, and at the end of the day, you just want it done.”
He trusted that the disagreements would be a “dark, distant memory” a decade from now.
Ngati Kahungunu settlement adviser Rawiri Smith said it was an emotional experience to be present at the reading when so many who had gone before could not be.
“Sometimes in the whakapapa, I think I am the runt of the genealogical line.”
He said a raft of brilliant people, such as the esteemed Whatahoro Jury should have been there to bear witness.
“Do I wish he were there rather than me? Of course.
“People would be stunned by the kind of korero he would give. There is a whole line of those kinds of people.”
Smith said some dissatisfaction with the settlement was inevitable when pragmatism was prioritised.
“They have every right to be dissatisfied, but the reality is we weren’t going to get redress on everything claimed.
“One thing about redress is that it can’t totally redress historical grievances, but it sets us up going forward.”