Ko Mauao te maunga, ko Hauraki te whenua? Settlement woes in Tauranga

The voting papers for the Pare Hauraki Collective Redress Claim have arrived in the letterboxes of Hauraki descendants around the motu, including a fair few of my own whanaunga. Lo and behold, when describing their rohe, the Hauraki Māori Trust Board claims:

“The Board operates in Te Ika A Maui (Nth Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand) in a tribal region known as Hauraki. Our region is described by tribal elders as:- Mai Matakana ki Matakana; From Matakana in the south to Matakana in the north”

Indeed, here’s the map:


In summary, this is an unwelcome development. The claim incorporates much of the rohe of my hapū, Pirirākau and Te Whānau o Tauwhao, and the entire rohe of Ngāti Te Wai and Ngāi Tamawhariua. The evidence they have provided to date is essentially shared whakapapa between Tauranga Moana and Hauraki (which shouldn’t surprise anyone) and the above tribal whakataukī that few had heard of before this claim and fewer can provide a historical foundation for the statement. I can only imagine the sighs of frustration from Waikato Tainui and Ngāti Haua.

A lot of us in Tauranga Moana are angry at this intrusion, and have been further incensed by the general disinterest the Hauraki representatives have shown in meeting with our own settlement representatives to work this out. The reason for the disinterest points to the real villains of this whole affair: the Crown.

The Treaty settlement process has been put into hyperdrive, first by the last Labour government and continued apace by this current government, to meet their self-imposed, non-negotiated deadline for settling historical claims. The primary mode of settlement in the last 15 years is Direct Settlement, rather than going through the courts or the Waitangi Tribunal. The Crown will only agree to deal with Large Natural Groupings, wiping out the avenue for hapū (who were the primary political and community unit at the time of the signing of Te Tiriti) to have their own voice heard in favour of convenience for the Crown.

The Crown has always known that Large Natural Groupings tend to ignore and quash the voice of hapū. At the time of Te Tiriti we hadn’t yet seen co-ordinated pan-tribal movements and indeed the wars of the 1870s and 1880s were partially motivated by the tensions between tribes and pan-tribalism; to say that tāngata whenua have large and natural groupings is an oxymoron that flies in the face of historical evidence.

No, Large Natural Groupings are only natural to the Crown and benefit a small Māori lower middle class in each region. That seems a bold accusation to throw around, but I sit on the Ngāti Ranginui rūnanga here in Tauranga Moana. I like most of the people I work with (which is good as I’m related to most of them), but the reality is that the same small number of people turn up at the same tables to make decisions about relatively large resources that very rarely get back to hapū and marae, let alone individual whānau.

Settlements came out of the injustice experienced by hapū and whānau: their land, their language, their mana, their economic and social well-being, and often their lives were taken from them barely 150 years ago. Yet the settlement resources are rarely dispersed in a way that improves the lives of those affected communities; ultimately they tend to entrench the disparities that already exist in those communities because the resources will be invested in the same financial institutions and companies that the Crown invests in. We don’t establish new banks, new collectives, new community owned companies, new industries; we use what is already there, just as we’ve been taught to.

This works for the Crown. We shouldn’t feel that we’re particularly special, as this is an old strategy. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian socialist who explicated the super- and sub-structure in society, agreed with Marx that the lower middle class is the enemy of any revolution. Not because they are anti-revolutionary, but because the entire structure of a society is designed to turn these leaders of the oppressed into oppressors. Here in Aotearoa then, the Crown ensures that it provides significance, resources and position to our Māori leaders so that those leaders themselves tell us to be peaceable and come to the table with the Crown; our own will frustrate the anger and rage many of us feel.

The Pare Hauraki claim wasn’t formed by every Hauraki descendant we know getting together and agreeing that they can claim most of Auckland, half the Waikato and Tauranga Moana. My guess is it was a few people, who only talked to a few people, who all affirmed each others’ views and hey presto! But the Crown doesn’t care about the obvious inadequacies in the process. The Crown is a Pokemon collector: it’s gotta have them all, every single iwi, over the line, come hell or further Treaty breaches.

I would ask Pare Hauraki descendants to vote against their redress claim on the basis that it does the Crown’s work of confusion and insult to keep us separate from each other. The redress claim is a tool for divide and conquer; whilst it arrived with the Hauraki Collective logo, it’s endorsed by the Crown. They don’t want us to sit down, kānohi ki te kānohi. They want us to fight it out in the media and then come to the Minister or the courts for a determination. We may not have ceded sovereignty in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, but we’re doing a helluva job of ceding it today in the settlement process.