I’ve spent the last two days on the paepae at Poutūterangi Marae in Te Puna, supporting my Bidois whānau who are grieving a lost brother. We are between two storm fronts, so Rangi Pōtiki is an endless blue, Hinemoana is a quiet lapping presence and Papa is a rich healthy green with mid-Winter rains, and Mauao’s face is sombre, waiting to receive another life’s memories. Tauranga Moana, our home since Tamatea Arikinui moored Tākitimu in Te Awaiti at the base of Mauao.
The contemplative atmosphere on our marae belies the storm clouds looming over Tauranga Moana in the north today. The Hauraki Collective, apparently led by Paul Majurey, are sticking by their assertion that they are mana whenua in Tauranga Moana, an equal voice of authority in all matters alongside Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pukenga.
I can imagine if you are a Pākehā reader, this must all seem slightly murky. What is the big deal? Mana whenua is not an ethereal concept; mana whenua is a construct that has been imbued with real benefits and powers in the past 40 years. To be mana whenua in Tauranga Moana would mean:
- the Tauranga City Council, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council need to create a regular seat at the table for multiple iwi from Pare Hauraki, need to consult them about all notifiable consents, need to include their monitors in any developments;
- the District Health Board currently has an iwi body called the Rūnanga. It has 18 iwi. If Pare Hauraki are mana whenua, that’s another 12 iwi to include;
- all government agencies have a Treaty obligation to partner with mana whenua in the regions they are located. This would now include Pare Hauraki for any Tauranga Moana discussions.
But the big game in town is the Port of Tauranga. It is the largest port in Aotearoa New Zealand, a recognised economic engine. Yes, there’s a framework for governance of Tauranga harbour, but you’re fooling yourself if you think that will be the gentle, friendly meeting of a few people admiring strategic plans and eating a nice lunch. It will move to a smooth corporate machine very quickly, and my opinion is that Majurey and the other negotiators really want a slice of that pie. In other parts of the country that are further ahead in the post-settlement phase, large corporates have built close and profitable relationships with iwi. This includes a significant dividend each year to smooth the way on developments and to resource those iwi to have the capacity and capability to positively contribute to said corporates. I believe Pare Hauraki wants one of those close and profitable relationships with the biggest game in town.
An assertion of mana whenua by Pare Hauraki is short hand for Pare Hauraki having a vote and a say on every major decision in Tauranga Moana from now going forward. So this is not a funny little battle between a few Māori people. This is a battle about whom has the rights to guide the future of Tauranga city and the Port of Tauranga. If you were angry about not being able to cross the Wairoa bridge, you’re going to love a future where you have to consult with an office in Thames or Auckland before you can chop down an old tree or subdivide your property.
So how did it get to this point? Pare Hauraki claim that they are mana whenua by virtue of whakapapa in Tauranga Moana. In addition, Majurey has asserted time and again that Ngāti Ranginui and Pare Hauraki reached agreements that affirm their mana whenua status.
Majurey specifically claimed that Pare Hauraki claim interests and rights to the whenua included in the Te Puna-Katikati Purchase block through Hauraki ancestors Taraia and Tukukino. What is disappointing about this claim is that Taraia and Tukukino always identified themselves as Ngāti Ranginui when they were in Tauranga Moana, and they both have Pirirākau whakapapa. I believe that Majurey is assuming that whakapapa is static. By way of example, his idea is that if you are Pirirākau, if you have tūpuna buried in Awahou and shares in whenua there, then you and by proxy Pirirākau have not only interests, but also rights at Awahou. But this is a deliberate obfuscation of how whakapapa works. When I go to Te Ōhākī Marae in Douglas Rd, I am there through my ancestor Te Aopare Te Wharewaka and I am Ngāti Tokotoko; when I am at Awahou, I am there through Te Kāpaiwaho, and I am Ngāti Rangiwewehi; when I am home at Poutūterangi, I am Pirirākau through Irihāpeti Whakamomori and Maungapohatu. Any rights I have in those places is through that specific context and identity. I don’t import my other whakapapa to stamp a mark for Tauranga Moana outside of Tauranga Moana.
But that still leaves this question: did Ngāti Ranginui agree that Pare Hauraki are mana whenua and are we now reneging on our agreements?
Ngāti Ranginui negotiators did attempt to reach agreement with Pare Hauraki between 2012 and 2014. One of those agreements was about the Athenree forest. Pare Hauraki interests and rights were recognised in this land that borders Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana, and a practical split 60/40 split was agreed at that point. Other pieces of land have also been agreed to; these are quite specific and relate to particular whānau from both Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana who were occupying pockets of land in Tauranga Moana between the signing of Te Tiriti and the confiscations in the 1860s. This is not abnormal; for example, Pirirākau are going through the same process with Ngāti Hinerangi.
But did we agree that Pare Hauraki are mana whenua over Tauranga Moana? In that period, Ngāti Ranginui negotiators, supported by our pakeke, met with Pare Hauraki in Thames. A Ranginui negotiator has said to me that at that hui, the issue of mana whenua status was raised by Pare Hauraki. Ngāti Ranginui stated that Pare Hauraki needed to provide their evidence to support this claim; if they could do so, then we could consider the legitimacy of their claim. The invitation was extended on behalf of our pakeke to Pare Hauraki to meet at a later date at Ōtāwhiwhi, with the specific intent to explore this assertion of mana whenua status; no-one from Pare Hauraki chose to attend.
We don’t agree that we supported Pare Hauraki assertions of mana whenua status, but we were willing to meet them, kanohi ki te kanohi to allow them to put their case.
Nevertheless, the most bizarre aspect of Paul Majurey’s consistent assertion that we have made agreements and now we are reneging on them is that it is not the first time in the history of Treaty settlements that agreements have been in dispute. Agreements rely on both parties having a shared understanding of what they are agreeing to. So naturally, if in good faith Majurey thinks we are reneging on a deal, then wouldn’t you think he would want to meet with the party with whom he made the agreement to reaffirm that agreement?
But it seems to me that Majurey has not interest in meeting with Tauranga Moana. He complains about us reneging, but doesn’t want to meet with us about that aforementioned agreement. In my mind, this indicates he is not sincere about reaching agreement with us, and we are a tool he is using to get the Crown to agree to the best possible deal for Pare Hauraki.
Which brings us to the villain in this whole affair. It’s definitely not our whanaunga in Pare Hauraki, it’s none of the negotiators, and not even Paul Majurey who is clearly a tough and clever negotiator. No. It is the Crown.
We have been pushed to reach a deed and pushed ever since to settle cross-claims. In each of the agreements above, behind us was a Crown official whispering that this was a reasonable compromise that would finally bring completion to our moana settlement. But what I have come to realise is that the Crown is an abusive partner, pushing us into acts and relationships we don’t really want but that they say show we are an honorable and reasonable people. And at the end of it, other negotiators have used our naivety to now stand on the cusp of taking away the only thing that is truly real once you break through all the suits, the glass and the concrete: our moana, our pātaka kai, our whaea. I feel dirty, foolish and alone; Tauranga Moana sold off for Chris Finlayson’s pleasure until his attention has wandered elsewhere.
When Chris Finlayson signed the Ngāti Ranginui Deed of Settlement over five years ago, he apologised for raupatu and talked about partnership. But somehow he has allowed his officials to sit at the table with Pare Hauraki and not thought about the partnership we signed with him. And when we have complained, he has refused to meet with us and dismissed us in public like we are beggars at the door. We thought we could trust his intent, his character and his intellect. But it turns out the signatures are all that matters to him, and our partnership is just a piece of paper. And to think about it, this is the reason that my ancestors never signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the first place.