Maori tribes to get millions

Date of publication: 
17 February 2009

Wellington – The New Zealand government will pay out hundreds of
millions of dollars to a group of indigenous Maori tribes to settle
grievances going back 160 years, it said on Wednesday.

Agreements have been reached with eight tribes to give them around
NZ$300m to compensate for illegal land acquisitions and violations of
a 1840 treaty guaranteeing them control over land and other resources.

“This redress will unlock significant economic development potential
for the Iwi (tribal) groups and the regions in which they live,”
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said.

The eight tribes from the bottom half of the North Island and top half
of the South Island have about 12 000 members and will receive around
half the amount in cash and the rest in rents from government owned
forests and greenhouse gas emission credits.

One of the tribes, Te Ataiawa, said the settlement would never make up
for what had been taken from them, but would give them resources for
the future.

“We want to move into development mode so that in the future Te Atiawa
will have sustained growth and prosperity,” said Sharon Gemmell, the
tribe’s head negotiator.

Maori make up around 15% of New Zealand’s 4.3 million population, but
languish at the bottom of most social indicators, such as life
expectancy, income, employment and educational attainment.

The deal is the latest between the New Zealand government and Maori to
settle claims that the Maori were victims of illegal land seizures and
breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Treaty, signed in 1840, guaranteed the indigenous Maori people,
the use of their land and resources in return for the British Crown
taking control.

However, some Maori tribes waged armed resistance against colonial and
settler incursions in the 1850s-1870s, resulting in land confiscations
and imprisonment.

As part of the latest settlement, the government acknowledged the
treaty was breached by the detention without trial of a famous warrior
chief, Te Rauparaha, who wrote the haka – the traditional challenge
performed by the All Black rugby team before matches.

The ownership of the Ka Mate haka has been given to the chief’s tribe
as part of the settlement.