Taranaki Iwi Claims Settlement Act 2016

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8 Summary of historical account


Prior to 1860, Taranaki Iwi were participating successfully in the trading economy and retained control over much of their customary land. In 1860, the Crown’s purchase of land at Waitara, despite strong opposition from the significant rangatira Wiremu Kingi te Rangitaake, led to war between Taranaki Māori and the Crown. During the war, Crown forces shelled coastal Taranaki Iwi settlements and employed “scorched earth” tactics which destroyed Taranaki Iwi kainga, cultivations, and food-stores. When peace was negotiated in 1861, Crown forces remained in occupation of the disputed block, while Taranaki Iwi occupied the Ōmata and Tataraimaka blocks, sold by members of Taranaki Iwi in 1847.


In early 1863, Crown troops reoccupied Tataraimaka and Ōmata. In May 1863, some Taranaki Māori attacked soldiers moving between the blocks, killing 9. War resumed, and in the following 3 years Crown forces again destroyed Taranaki Iwi settlements and cultivations. Taranaki Iwi people suffered severe distress and hardship, and many lost their lives.


In 1865, the Crown proclaimed 1.2 million acres of Taranaki land confiscated, including all of the Taranaki Iwi rohe not already purchased. The confiscations were indiscriminate, depriving both “loyal” and “rebel” Māori of their lands. A process to compensate “loyal” Māori for the confiscation of their land was established, but when the Compensation Court began its hearings in June 1866, the Crown had already allocated large tracts of Taranaki Iwi lands to military settlers. The Crown then failed to implement most of the Court’s recommendations and out-of-court agreements for more than 15 years. Almost all the land eventually returned was granted under individualised title, extinguishing customary tenure.


In 1866, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi established a settlement at Parihaka in the heart of the Taranaki Iwi rohe, where they began to develop a community which adopted and employed non-violent measures to resist further land loss and promote Māori independence. The Crown came to view this community and its approach as a challenge to its authority. In 1878, tensions increased after Hiroki, a fugitive from the law who was later hanged in New Plymouth gaol, took refuge at Parihaka, and after surveyors failed to mark out reserves promised to Māori in southern Taranaki. In March 1879, Te Whiti ordered the surveyors to be peacefully evicted.


In May 1879, followers of Te Whiti and Tohu began to plough land across Taranaki, as an assertion of their rights to the land. By the end of July, 182 ploughmen had been arrested. Only 46 received a trial, but all were detained in harsh conditions in South Island prisons for at least 14 months, and some for 2 years. In June 1880, Crown forces began to construct a road through cultivations near Parihaka. Between July and September 1880, 223 more Māori were arrested for placing fences across the road in an attempt to protect the cultivations. Only 59 fencers received a trial, but again all were sent to South Island prisons. Over this period, Parliament passed legislation to enable the continuing detention of those prisoners who had not been tried.


In July 1881, people from Parihaka and surrounding Taranaki Iwi settlements erected fences around traditional cultivation sites that the Crown had sold to settlers. On 5 November 1881, more than 1 500 Crown troops, led by the Native Minister, invaded Parihaka and then dismantled the settlement and forcibly removed many of its inhabitants. Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested and held without trial for 16 months.


In 1881, the West Coast Commission found that the Crown had failed to fulfil promises about Māori reserves, and recommended that some reserves be granted. However, reserves were not returned to Māori outright, but were placed under the administration of the Public Trustee, who then sold or leased in perpetuity large areas to European farmers. Through the 20th century, a number of legislative acts further undermined the ability of Taranaki Iwi people to retain or control their remaining lands. Today, less than 5 percent of the reserved lands are in Māori freehold ownership, and approximately 50 000 acres remain leased in perpetuity. The massive loss of land has limited the ability of Taranaki Iwi to participate in society on equal terms with many other New Zealanders.