Ngai Tahu history relevant to debate

There are no outstanding issues around Ngai Tahu-owned land; they have all been settled with the Crown, writes John Bell.

Ted Palmer's contribution (ODT, 23.8.16) to the rates remission debate consists of an attempt to divide the community into two race-based camps - Maori and European - for the purpose of perpetuating a sense of endless grievance and entitlement, the aggrieved on this occasion to be compensated not by taxpayers but by Dunedin's ratepayers.

His selective presentation of 19th century events implies an idyllic pre-1840 Maori society that was disrupted by the arrival of British settlers whose descendants must now make endless amends for the harm inflicted by their forebears, while those who belong to neither ethnic camp must wonder how they, too, get caught up in the cost of atoning for claimed colonial wrongs.

The facts are rather different.

Southern New Zealand is not Ngai Tahu's ancestral homeland.

As Whatua Mamoe, they were established on the east coast of the North Island before moving south in the 16th and 17th centuries, when they merged with Waitaha to become Ngai Tahu.

From 1828, Ngai Tahu came under increasing pressure from Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa who destroyed Ngai Tahu pa at Kaikoura, Kaiapoi and Akaroa, massacring the inhabitants.

With their numbers further depleted by disease introduced from Australia - an 1844 census counted only 322 Maori in the whole South Island - southern Maori sold land both to pay for muskets and to gain protection via the presence of European settlers.

A total area of land of about 2million acres (810,000ha) located between Waikouaiti and Port Molyneux was sold to the Weller brothers who operated a whaling station near the entrance to Otago Harbour.

When Te Rauparaha then sold much of his conquests in the northern part of the island to buy more muskets, a group of eight Ngai Tahu chiefs, including Taiaroa and Karetai, travelled to Sydney where, in February 1840, having rejected a treaty proposed by Governor Gipps, they sold almost the entire South Island to William Wentworth and to whaler Johnny Jones.

Thus, at the time that British sovereignty was established in New Zealand, Ngai Tahu had already forfeited almost all their land by conquest or by sale.

Only when the British administration reined in Te Rauparaha (the Crown has recently apologised to Ngati Toa for its impact on Te Rauparaha's ''maritime empire'') and cancelled almost all Ngai Tahu's land sales without paying any compensation to the purchasers, were Ngai Tahu able to sell their land yet again, this time to the Crown under the terms of Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.

To the extent that those sales were considered unfair to Ngai Tahu, the iwi has now concluded no fewer than five settlements with the Crown.

Implicit, if not explicit, in any ''full and final'' settlement is a requirement that the parties do not raise the matters at issue again in any context.

Yet that is exactly what Ted Palmer and the Ngai Tahu Law Office are doing in seeking a race-based entitlement from the Dunedin City Council.

There are no outstanding issues around Ngai Tahu-owned land; they have all been settled with the Crown.

There can be no traditional Maori cultural values that impact on freehold land now in private Maori ownership because Maori had no tradition of private land ownership before the introduction of the rule of law by the British Crown.

Under Article 3 of the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori gained the rights and privileges of British citizens, including the right to private ownership of land on exactly the same terms as everyone else.

That right comes with an obligation to pay rates and to keep land free of noxious weeds, irrespective of whose ancestors brought the weeds here in the first place.

Failure to meet that obligation is an invitation to any local authority to declare the land abandoned and to treat it accordingly, regardless of the ethnicity of the owner.

Any rates remission concession to individual or multiple landowners on grounds of their being of Maori descent will discriminate against everyone else and so be in breach of Human Rights legislation.

At a time when many have commemorated disruption of a rugby tour 35 years ago, in protest against a regime of race-based entitlement in South Africa, it seems bizarre that the DCC should entertain any proposal for a policy that would introduce race-based entitlement here.

-John Bell is a Dunedin ratepayer.


Goodness. Anglo Norman jurisprudence, was it? Coupla vaguely associated issues, at least as vague as yours: Maori lost a generation in WW2, the Maori Battalion, but were still considered 'minority'.

The only answer to homelessness across all races was provided by a Ngaruawahia marae.