Settlement learning curve
The parameters of the Waikato Raupatu settlement deal were struck six months before the coronation anniversary of Dame Te Atairangikaahu.
At this meeting at Hopuhopu, Sir Robert Mahuta introduced the relativity clause, a mechanism to future proof the tribe’s settlement so Waikato would not be penalised for being the first iwi to resolve their historic land confiscation claim with the Crown. In fact, it ensures that it will remain the largest.
Tainui legal advisor Shane Solomon attributes the clause to Mahuta’s intellect and ability to understand the political landscape. The government had already suffered a huge backlash from Maaori over its fiscal envelope plan but was desperate for a settlement on its books. Waikato was equally desperate.
“It was a last-minute-late-at-night agreement,” said Solomon.
Only Ngaai Tahu received similar dispensation, due in part to Tipene O’Regan and Mahuta staying in regular contact about the trials and tribulations of their negotiations. All sides were on a treaty settlement learning curve although the government soon wised up about the economic ramifications of the relativity clause.
But Prime Minister Jim Bolger stands by the decision.
“Somebody had to break the log jam in this new era and go first.”
Waikato ushered in that era on May 22 by signing its deed of settlement.
During the poowhiri Bolger and Minister of Treaty Settlements Doug Graham were escorted on to Tuurangawaewae marae by Tuuheitia, the future leader of the Kiingitanga, former MP and Tainui statesman Koro Wetere and Tom Winitana, an adviser to the Office of Treaty Settlements.
Receiving them were kaumaatua who had played their part in the claim, Tui Adams, Waea Mauriohooho and Hare Puke. They were joined by Mahuta, Te Atairangikaahu, her husband Whatumoana Paki and Timi Te Heuheu representing his father the paramount chief of Ngaati Tuuwharetoa, Sir Hepi Te Heuheu.
As the karanga drew their manuhiri in, chanting rang out among the lines of women whose stark black clothing was relieved by parekawakawa and scarves of navy blue, the colour of the stylised hawk on Te Atairangikaahu’s personal flag.
Manuhiri were also greeted with the sight of Tuaiwa Rickard outside the marae gate, who pronounced the day as one of mourning.
She criticised the way in which treaty settlements were negotiated, considering the process divisive, the settlements unjust, and the haste to sign obscene. Her response to the negotiators of the 1995 Waikato Rauato Settlement was that her hapuu of Tainui-Aawhiro in Whaaingaroa stood outside the deal.
But the stage was set.
Crowds of people and media jammed the marae facing Maahinaarangi where the deed of settlement rested on a table.
As it was signed by Te Atairangikaahu and the Prime Minister, a sacred stone talisman of Korotangi, the kaitiaki that led the Tainui canoe from Hawaiki to Aotearoa, watched over yet another significant event in the tribe’s journey.