“I riro whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai.
Ko te moni hei utu mo te hara.”
“As land was taken, so should it be returned.
The money is the acknowledgement by the Crown of their crime.”
Waikato Raupatu Negotiating Principles
On the morning of the anniversary celebrating the coronation of Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu in 1995, a veil of mist-shrouded Tuurangawaewae marae.
The rising sun spread its warmth and light on the meeting house Maahinaarangi, revealing portraits of her descendants, leaders of the Kiingitanga, draped in korowai and kawakawa leaves. They had a spiritual place in a ceremony that day, marking the settlement of Waikato’s raupatu claim.
In July 1863, a British army invaded the Waikato south of the Mangatawhiri river, triggering battles at Meremere, Rangiriri, Ngaaruawaahia and Rangiaowhia. But by 1864 Waikato and its allies had retreated into the King Country and the Maaori defeat at Ooraakau ultimately brought an end to the Waikato Land Wars.
Governor George Grey proclaimed victory over the Kiingitanga and confiscated more than a million acres of Waikato land. This was a far greater blow than military defeat, wrote the historian Michael King. Waikato was unable to subsist on land of its own. The loss of traditional sites including urupaa, places of prayer, sites of centuries of habitation and access to the Waikato river itself, created an intense feeling of deprivation.
Carmen Kirkwood, a former Tainui Maaori Trust Board member believed the trauma of raupatu became inherent.
“It was hard for our old people. They would cry, even my own mother, she would just cry. Everything that made us Maaori was gone.”
Another former Trust Board member, Taitimu Maipi, recalled the heavy drinking among whaanau in Huntly during his childhood.
“The drinking was to drown the sorrows of the land wars and the singing was to take away the pain.”
The struggle for redress saw decades of denial for Waikato.
Voyages to London by Taawhiao in 1884 and Te Rata in 1914 to petition the British monarchy for the return of confiscated land were unsuccessful. Maaori MPs like Buck, Ngata, Poomare and Carroll were also ineffectual or unwilling to take up Waikato’s cause.
In 1927, the Sim Commission on Maaori land confiscation found Waikato’s dispossession was ‘excessive’. But it ignored the tribe’s repeated call for the return of land. An annual payment of £5000 in compensation was reluctantly agreed to by Waikato in 1947.
Despite Robert Mahuta lodging the Wai 30 claim with the Waitangi Tribunal in 1987, Waikato-Tainui bypassed the Tribunal to enter direct negotiations with the National government.
Former Tainui principal legal advisor and now Auckland District Court Judge Denese Henare said the raupatu claim had already been recognised in a previous claim to the Waitangi Tribunal for the Manukau Harbour.
“The Kiingitanga had supported that claim by Ngaati Te Ata and there had been recognition by the tribunal in that report of some of the findings of the Sim Commission, in particular, the grievance of the raupatu, the invasion, the wrongful confiscation, all in breach of the treaty, in violation of the treaty.”
Prime Minister Hon Jim Bolger signs the deed of settlement with Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, supported by Ngaati Tipa kuia Iti Rawiri at the rear. Credit –Tai Moana