Waitangi Tribunal hearings revealing
On Tuesday, I had a timely glimpse into the ability of the New Zealand psyche to live in one place but have different realities.
Most of us were unaware that the Waitangi Tribunal was hearing submissions in Ka¯ piti. The second of the three-week sessions for local iwi claims was held at Southward Car Museum. The five-person panel consisted of Deputy Chief Justice Caren Fox, Prof. Sir Tamati Reddy, Sir Douglas Kidd, Dr Grant Phillipson, and Tania Simpson. The submissions covered the role and impact of local government in the progressive loss of Ma¯ ori land. A key presentation was a submission by Suzanne Woodley, a substantial research paper underpinning claims by Te Ati Awa and Nga¯ ti Awa Ki Ka¯ piti.
It may be useful to look at political power as explained by political scientist, Dr Steven Lukes, titled The Three Faces of Power. The first, open face of power, relates to direct exercise of power where the decision maker and the process is visible. The second, shaded face, is the subtle exercise where decisions are made within a complex system but the agenda leading to it, and the context is set by those that wield this power. The third, hidden face, is where the power is so insidious that it shapes people’s thinking. Where you don’t know that decisions you make by ‘free choice’ has actually been shaped by ‘the system’. An easy reference is the impact of sophisticated advertising techniques.
Suzanne Woodley’s paper documents the systematic loss of Ma¯ ori land starting with the complex local authorities which had jurisdiction over the tribal lands of Te Ati Awa/Nga¯ ti Awa ki Ka¯ piti. Up until 1989 these included highway boards, road boards, county councils, county town committees, borough councils and district community councils. The research exposes the lack of representation for local Ma¯ ori. Prior to 1989 only a single councillor, Te Aputa Kauri, was elected to the Waikanae Borough Council in 1971. This was due to the voting system where the right to vote was denied Ma¯ ori landowners who had culturally-defined multiple ownership and, further, the system was weighted to give multiple votes to European landowners. The paper then outlines the use of a rating system where Ma¯ ori land was rated irrespective of whether the land was revenue producing or not, or whether owners were able to pay. Legal tools, like charging orders and receiverships, were used to recover rates even when landowners were not identified or notified of the rates. From 1963, the use of the law changed from land taken for compulsory leasing to vestings in court for compulsory sale.
The research notes that under s109 of the Rating Act 1925: “There was no protective measures for the owners . . . no requirement to inform all or any of the current owners of the proposed vestings
. . . or even to check to ensure that rates had been correctly levied on the current owner at the correct address. Nor was there any requirement to ensure that the owners received a fair price for their land at the current valuation when the land was sold. There was no provision once the vesting order was made for sales to be halted if owners were located and undertook to pay the rates arrears. It was acknowledged by the Department of Ma¯ ori Affairs in 1967 that the whole object of the exercise was ‘ . . . in law, to get rates paid without any concerns for the welfare, or wishes or interests of the former proprietors of these lands’. The aim instead was to recoup rates for the local authority.”
This horror story of systematic alienation of Ma¯ ori land in Ka¯ piti was delivered by local iwi to the learned members of the Tribunal. The irony is that Ka¯ piti, especially Waikanae, is also the resting place of an outstanding Ma¯ ori leader. Born on Ka¯ piti Island, of Ma¯ ori and European parentage, Wiremu Te Kakakura Parata was a Member of Parliament and Minister. He had gifted tribal land for development of Waikanae township. It was his 1877 landmark court case over Ma¯ ori land that led to Chief Justice Sir James Prendergast to declare the Treaty worthless and a “simple nullity”. Given the active historical involvement of local authorities in this systemic alienation it’s not clear whether local authorities can continue to hold the position that they are not responsible for Crown obligations under the Treaty. The evidence and submissions before the Tribunal hearings in Ka¯ piti is likely to stimulate renewed demands for justice and restitution.
Stained glass window at the St Luke’s Church altar. Left is Wi Parata Te Kakakura. Faithful servant of God. Middle St Luke. Right In memory of Octavious Hadfield. Maori missionary in this district.