180 years since Te Tiriti O Waitangi: Questions linger


On this day in 1840 Aotearoa became New Zealand. Te Ika A Maui and Te Waipounamu became the North Island and South Island, respectively. 180 years later, following a brutal series of land wars between the Crown and Maori, questions linger as to how to move forward.

But first things first. Of the seven Iwi that need to have their claims settled with the Crown, six have done so, but Ngapuhi are yet to come to the table. Indeed no one is quite sure how or when Ngapuhi will come to the table. The Crown no doubt hopes that this is soon, so that New Zealand can move on. New Zealanders at large for various reasons hope it will be soon.

How many Maori believe that the Treaty negotiations need to be wound up soon is unknown. The younger generation, having been made more aware of the past than their elders, have a more proactive view on the matter. This has manifested at various times at Ihumatao and more recently on the Kaikoura coast, where younger Maori are not so keen to embrace the idea that the settlements that have been completed are full, fair and final.

At Ihumatao Fletcher Construction was meant to build new housing on land of significant importance to local Maori. It had already reached an agreement with the kaumatua (elders) on how to proceed and was only days or weeks away from beginning construction when protesters occupied the land. Fortunately, unlike the Bastion Point occupied which ended violently in the 1970’s, this seems to have come to a peaceful conclusion, or the media lost interest.

A second one is coming out north of Kaikoura at the moment where the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Rebuild alliance has been forced to post-earthquake repair work. This because protesters have occupied the coast line that had been allocated for a new cycle way. They claim that the coast and ancestral graves on the hills above Ohau Point and Waipapa Bay are being desecrated. Maybe, but it is almost like after 3 years of work, it has suddenly become a problem now – the cycle way was being worked on when I visited in March 2019, which is nearly a year ago.

I find these late interventions frustrating. Perhaps it is a reflection on the elders not being stringent enough when their Iwi was negotiating with the Crown, and that maybe the protesters have a point. Certainly I believe it is an indication that communications between Maori interests has not been as good as it should have been. But should non-Maori be subject to an internal quarrel that they were not honestly aware of?

HAPPY WAITANGI DAY