Violence, Abuse and The Theft of Waitara Lands

One of the ways that abusers maintain their power and ability to continue their abusive behaviour is through silencing their victims. Ensuring the secret is kept, that the silence is maintained allows abusers to hold their power and control over those that they are victimising. Silence is a mechanism of control. It stops others from challenging or intervening in the oppressive relations that abusers perpetuate on those around them. Silence is a means by which to deny the existence of abuse. It is a veil that shrouds the abuse in order to render it invisible. In doing so it ensures that those abused are also rendered invisible and marginalised. Abusers are at their most powerful when those around them either do not know, chose not to know, or for many reasons they turn a blind eye to what is happening within their midst.

When I look at the Treaty settlement process imposed through the Fiscal Envelope process of the mid 1990’s I see silence and abuse at its core. The Crown in its so-called negotiation process is the most powerful abuser in Aotearoa. Through it’s representative negotiating agency, the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS), the Crown (which includes successive right wing and left wing governments) continues to abuse whānau, hapū and iwi. Silence as power, and silence as abuse, is reproduced through demands by OTS for ‘confidentiality’. In the context of the Treaty Settlement process the imposed process of confidentiality has enabled the Crown to abuse and re-abuse our people for over 25 years of Treaty settlements. The notion itself of settlement is a breach of the fundamental premise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Moana Jackson reminds us constantly that “treaties are not made to be settled. Treaties are made to be honoured”. Since the instigation of the Fiscal Envelope process we have seen consistent moves by the Crown to invalidate the treaty. It is evident throughout government policies of removing fundamental treaty rights from legislation; placing deadlines on the right of our people to lodge treaty claims; whitestreaming of Māori specialist or dedicated roles across sectors to name but a few examples. The abusive power of the Crown may have changed form over 200 years, however it remains exactly that – State abuse. Graham Smith has talked of this as the new formation of colonisation. That is, it is colonisation under a different guise, in a different shape, but nonetheless Colonisation it remains. The silence that is confidentiality in the Treaty settlement process is reflective of the silencing imposed by an abuser that seeks to maintain their power and control. That is the nature of the current Crown – Māori relationship, it is a deeply embedded abusive and oppressive one.

This takes me to a key process that impacts directly upon the whānau, hapū and iwi of our lands, the Pekapeka Block in Waitara. The abuse relationship upon the whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara is one that the Crown began in the 1860s. We remember, the history of the lands in Waitara, the theft and confiscation as a result of the Crown creating legislation to empower itself to steal the lands of Manukorihi and Otaraua hapū of Te Ātiawa iwi. The Crown later passed the lands to its colonial cousins that are now known as the New Plymouth District Council and Taranaki Regional Council. This makes it an intergenerational abuse as it continues to abuse the descendants of those that the Crown abused, imprisoned and murdered in the 19th century. This abuse was described by Awhina Cameron as follows, in relation to Taranaki, and in particular events surrounding the Waitara lands –

“When I sat down to write my korero today, I was struck by the glaringly obvious parallels between what I do, the work we do on an organisation level and what is currently going-on on a community and collective level between hapu, iwi and the various governing bodies of this land…
Violence is not ok, the further marginalisation of victims is not ok, interpersonal intentional harm is not ok, be it on a physical, psychological, emotional, financial or spiritual level, it is not ok. The dehumanising of the victim, the minimising of the harm, the rationalising of the violence is not ok. Nor is it ok for someone to use for their benefit the rewards of the harm of other, intentionally benefiting from that trauma, because this further victimises the victim and reinforces the perpetrators actions…
What I would say to you all here today, is that what is true on an individual level should also be true on a group and collective level. I would like to explore how our approach to intentional group collective harm has up to this day, minimised, dehumanised, marginalised and in no way resembles a meaningful restorative or healing approach to harm and the impacts and effects of that harm.”

There has been much debate about what “to do” with the Pekapeka Block that the Crown and Councils refer to within the generalised term ‘Waitara Endowed Lands’. The constant denial of the abusive parties to refer to specific lands as ‘Pekapeka’ is another process of marginalising the history and the oppressive actions that lead to Waitara being then passed on by the Crown to the two Council bodies, The New Plymouth District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council. “Endowed lands” creates a sense that the land was “gifted” “bestowed” or “donated” when in fact the lands were stolen and illegally confiscated. There was no act of endowment or gifting, there were acts of abuse and theft. This is not debatable, this is an historical fact. We now see, those acts of violence against the hapū and iwi being repeated today in 2017 with the current assertion of the NP District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council that they now have some right to sell “their gift”. That is very clearly an act of intergenerational violence and abuse.

Let me return, for a moment, to the notion of abusers, secrets and silence. For many generations these councils have forced whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara to not only live watching these abusive institutions control the lands, they have also forced us to pay leases to live on the Pekapeka block. Throughout those years the councils have served their own interests in regards to the use of lease funds and in many instances have sold (and made freehold) sections of the Pekapeka block, and other confiscated lands in Waitara, with no indication to the hapū and iwi that they were doing so. It was their secret.

Silence through confidentiality continues to be imposed by the Crown agency, The Office of Treaty Settlements. OTS has a reputation of being the Crowns bully and there is no doubt that is the case in regards to Waitara. One of the most detrimental processes related to the Pekapeka block and other hapū lands in Waitara is silence being presented as confidentiality. Abuse relies on the secret and silence. We have seen this for over 200 years in Aotearoa. If we are to resolve the historical trauma that has impacted upon whānau, hapū and iwi within Waitara then we must ensure that all discussions are open and that the Crown and Councils do not impose their processes of secrecy to deny meaningful engagement.

None of the abusers in this scenario want to relinquish their power. The Crown, NP District council and the Taranaki Regional council want to place some part of the responsibility of this issue at the feet of the Iwi and the existing Te Atiawa treaty settlement. It is also clear that the Taranaki Regional Council have sat in arrogance throughout this process and have positioned themselves actively against the return of any lands.

So this is a message to the Crown, NP District council and the Taranaki Regional council – NO WE DO NOT ACCEPT THAT. We do not accept that the Iwi should ever have to buy back lands that were stolen from our ancestors.
You stole the lands, you took Waitara through illegal acts of violence and confiscation, you have all benefited millions of times over through financial and economic advantage from the theft of those lands. You do not deserve one cent more, NOT one cent more should be extracted from the lands of Manukorihi and Otaraua hapū.

The colonial government commenced the colonial land wars in Waitara. Successive governments and councils have never done right by the whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara. They have constantly abused, oppressed and bullied those of Waitara. It is time for this government to call the Office of Treaty Settlements to heel and to take the time that is needed for the hapū and iwi of Waitara to take the time needed to ensure that these historical atrocities are dealt with in ways that meet the aspirations of their people. This can not be rushed to meet an election date, to do so would merely create yet another issue that the next generation will be left to deal with. Only then will there be meaningful negotiations to ensure the return of Waitara lands to their rightful guardians. It is time to make this right.

Excerpts from Submissions to the Māori Select Committee

Manukorihi Hapu o Waitara Submission
We oppose the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill in its entirety and would like all the Lands be returned to the Hapu o Whaitara at no cost and with no strings attached. We request that this Bill not be reported back to the House. Our main concern in relation to the Bill: The land was stolen: Hoki mai Te Whenua, therefore return it. At a recent hui, a question was asked, what do you do when you steal something? A child replied, “You give it back”. Do the right thing: Give the land back.

Patsy Bodger, Manukorihi Hapu oral submission
“The position of the Manukorihi hapu regarding the return of the Pekapeka block has always been clear as it was to our tupuna. We will never be distracted from that point of view. We are not interested in money. We see beyond the leases. The whenua is the most important thing. During the Treaty negotiation process we were asked, time and time again, what we wanted from the settlement. And we always responded by saying “Return the land. Hoki mai te whenua.”

Tu Tama Wahine o Taranaki Oral Submission
It is not helpful to forget our past. Whaitara has been earmarked by colonial imperialist history to be marginalised and to be fragmented, lost and confused culturally, socially and economically because our Tūpuna initiated a passive resistance movement – meaning resistance to government, law etc without violence by fasting, by demonstrating, and by refusing to cooperate. The passive resistance movement of Taranaki originated from Whaitara when Te Rangitake sent the women out to pull up the survey pegs. Thus began Te Pahua Tuatahi – Te Pahua o Whaitara – the plunder of Whaitara.

Dr Leonie Pihama Submission
The Bill will remove any hope or realisation of the aspirations of our tupuna that is encapsulated in the saying ‘I riro whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai’. Many generations of those of us that have lived on the Pekapeka Block have waited patiently for the return of those lands to our people. We have watched the struggle and pain of those who have had to lease lands back from those that represent the colonial forces that confiscated the lands of our ancestors. It is critical that this Bill be halted and that the Crown, the Council and hapū and iwi representatives resume discussions in regards to the return of these lands to mana whenua.

Community Taranaki Submission
The Waitara Lands Bill before you is nowhere near an instrument of doing the right thing. It is simply the perverse result of having the same conversation again, again and again. This is the conversation that speaks of the money that is still to be made at this final leg of a very old landgrab. It speaks of deal-making and how to weigh up the various players and competing interests, and how to extract compromise from the weakest participants. And it speaks of how to continue to avoid facing our real history, and the grief and trauma that still exists as a result of that history. Our advice to this Select Committee is to stop and to step back. We need a new conversation about the Waitara Lands.

Professor David V. Williams Submission

Harbour boards and local government entities in Taranaki have benefitted hugely over many decades from endowed lands that were wrongly, unfairly and unlawfully confiscated from hapū in the 1860s. There is no good reason for local government entities to continue to reap rewards from the endowed land assets and there is even less reason for those entities to obtain unearned capital gains from the freeholding of leasehold lands over which they should never have had a legal interest in the first place. If the land was wrongly taken, then the most obvious starting point for a peace and reconciliation conversation in our own time should be to find a way to return the lands to those from whom they were taken.

Tamaki Treaty Workers Submission
In addition to retaining ownership of the land itself, the local council and the public have had over 140 years of lease payments for these lands used for the benefit of Waitara. Nowhere in the Bill is this level of generosity recognised, acknowledged or compensated for. The fact that a calculation of the amount has not been undertaken and full provenance not completed, shows that this has been taken for granted.

Tamaki Treaty Workers Oral Submission

When communicating to the public about the betterment they will receive from the funds from the sales of the stolen land, NPDC is not communicating what benefits they have already received.

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Submission
This is iconic land, where the Crown launched the New Zealand Wars, the start of a tragic period of loss and dispossession. It is crucially important that the injustices of that time are not repeated in the present day, and the opportunity should instead be taken to provide a resolution to the confiscation of land. Since the land was stolen, we believe with Manukorihi and Otaraua that it should simply be returned.

New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists Submission

Reconciliation, genuine peace and goodwill are not possible when decisions made are only based on the majority view point without dialogue with minorities, a clear understanding of their cultural perspectives, historical experiences and empathy for their suffering. We believe that the original decision made to confiscate the land, then to lease the lands and make money from them have broken the Treaty partnership and dishonoured both Pakeha and Maori in the process.

Native Affairs – Selling off Waitara

Peace For Pekapeka

Submissions to Maori Affairs Select Commiittee Against the Waitara Lands Bill

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