Controversial Waitara Lands Bill passes third and final reading

in the news

The 160 year-long dispute over Waitara, the stolen lands that helped trigger the New Zealand Wars, is at an end.

Or so the government hopes.

On Thursday Parliament passed the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill, a local bill that clears the way for private sales, financial redress, and local reserves.

But controversially the Bill’s passage only came with permission from one of the two Waitara hapū.

“Ōtaraua hapū do not agree to the Bill in its current form,” said Taranaki Women’s Network spokesperson Associate Professor Leonie Pihama.

“They have indicated to Ministers that as a hapū they do not wish this current Bill to proceed. They have also provided areas of change that they would like to see in the Bill”.

Instead of returning what remains of the publicly-owned Waitara lands to the two hapū to use, protect, or dispose of as they see fit the Bill clears the way for private sales.

After the private sales 120 hectares would return to the two hapū, mostly as reserves.

 “Common sense would suggest [the] land still in public ownership should not be sold but be returned to the original owners,” said Community Taranaki trustee Vivian Hutchinson.

“[Instead the Bill] has the absurd determination to sell the Waitara lands before distributing the funds to all sorts of vested interests”.

Under the Bill the two hapū will share $28m from land sales and the Crown will contribute $34m for environmental projects in and around the remaining land.

Other parties are also set to cash in under any sale including New Plymouth ratepayers. Those same ratepayers have enjoyed more than a century’s-worth of returns on the land after the government confiscated the Pekapeka block and transferred it (free of charge) to what are now the New Plymouth District and Taranaki Regional councils.

The Bill also includes a Crown apology, usually seen in Treaty settlement bills rather than local bills.

But this did little to quell local and hapū opposition to the Bill.

On the day the Bill went before the House Te Ati Awa’s Grant Knuckey, a former Wellington Tenths Trust trustee, submitted a petition with over 500 signatures calling on Parliament to delay the Bill’s passage.

The Bill will now proceeds for royal assent.


in the house

The first reading of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill has been delayed. The Bill is now scheduled for its first reading on 19 February. The landmark Bill - the first of its kind - will allow Ngāi Tahu members acting via Te Rūnganga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to two members to the Canterbury Regional Council. The local bill is in the name of Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatane who is carving out a name for himself as a champion of kaupapa Māori representation. Tirikatene’s other Bill, the Electoral (Entrenchment of Māori Seats) Amendment Bill, passed its first reading earlier this year with support from (surprisingly) New Zealand First. Submissions on that Bill close today. New Zealand First is understood to oppose the Ngāi Tahu Representation, though it could still pass with support from National.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa were welcomed on to Parliament yesterday to witness the third reading of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa Claims Settlement Bill. The Bill includes an apology and agreed history, $25m in financial redress and the return of significant sites. The Bill’s passage comes five years after negotiations first opened. The settlement will exist alongside others settlements that the iwi benefit from including the Central North Island Forests Iwi Collective settlement (i.e. the “Treelords” deal).


in the media

  • The Māori Housing Network has made its second significant investment this year, funding up to $1m for Papakura Marae to build papakāinga housing. Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were on hand at Papakura to make the announcement.

  • Because it’s Christmas, behold the Spinoff Ātea’s Kirihimete gift guide. The guide lists Māori-owned business you can buy from this gift-giving season. Please consider supporting.

  • And in another week of shameless self promotion, my book of essays, columns, cultural criticism, and tributes to those who have passed is out. The book is also called Māui Street, but with capital letters. Consider buying it if you want to radicalise your friends and family.