On 24 June 2006, on a sunny windless day at Ngahutoitoi marae near Paeroa, the Tribunal presented the Hauraki Report to the assembled claimants. This ceremony, following presentation of the report to the Minister of Maori Affairs, was the culmination of some seven years work, covering 56 claims within the Hauraki Inquiry District.
The report is the largest in the Tribunal’s history and comprises three volumes, 1310 pages in all. The first claims were lodged by the Hauraki Maori Trust Board, constituted under act of parliament in 1988 to represent the 12 main iwi in the district’s complex tribal structure. Subsequently, many of the constituent iwi and hapu lodged separate claims.
The Tribunal appointed to hear the claims were Dame Augusta Wallace, presiding officer, John Kneebone, Professor Wharehuia Milroy, and Dame Evelyn Stokes. To our great regret and sorrow, Dame Evelyn died in August 2005, when the report to which she had made invaluable contributions was near completion. Hearings of claims and evidence began in September 1998 and concluded in November 2002. Assessing the evidence accumulated over four years of hearings, and reporting on the many claims, placed considerable demands on the Tribunal’s resources.
This is the first time that issues relating to gold mining, a central feature of the Hauraki claims, have been considered in depth by the Waitangi Tribunal. The claimants did not argue that gold, separately from land, is a traditional taonga, like pounamu. They owned the land, however, and everything in the land, and they controlled the access to it. The key questions were whether the Crown waited upon the owners’ full and free consent to open the land for mining, and whether the payments to owners for the right of access – the mining cessions or leases negotiated over Coromandel, Thames, Ohinemuri and elsewhere – were fair.
The Tribunal found that in the 1860s the Crown did generally negotiate openly and fairly and that the payments to owners of the annual miner’s rights fees and lease rentals for residential and business sites (rather than a royalty on gold actually extracted), were reasonable. This finding is related to the huge capital costs involved in quartz mining, which could be borne only by companies, as distinct from alluvial mining which can be done by individuals or small groups of miners.
However, the Tribunal found that undue pressure was brought to bear in some cases, especially in Ohinemuri, and that the Crown unilaterally reduced the scale of fees in the 1880s, when the mining industry was in difficulties. Even more seriously, the Crown systematically pursued the purchase of the freehold of land already subject to mining cessions. In 1940, a commision of inquiry found that Maori owners had not been fully advised that sale of the freehold meant that they were no longer entitled to the mining revenue, that the Crown, as holder of the mining leases, had at least a moral obligation to so advise them, and that a substantial ex gratia payment should be made. The Crown has conceded in the Tribunal’s proceedings that this payment should have been made. The Tribunal has welcomed the Crown’s concession and recommended that 1940 recommendation should be implemented ‘fully and in a generous spirit’.
Raupatu, the confiscation of land by the Crown during the wars of the 1860s, was another major issue in Hauraki. The Crown asked the Tribunal to examine the whole question of the war in Waikato and Hauraki, which had not been previously considered by the Tribunal because the Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act 1995 was based upon direct negotiations between Tainui and the Crown. The Tribunal found that responsibility for the renewal of war in 1863 indeed lay largely with Governor Grey and his Ministers, and that the wholesale confiscation of land, including Hauraki land as well as Waikato land, was unwarranted and in breach of the Treaty. Moreover, the Crown has conceded that very little land was subsequently returned to the Hauraki tribes, following earlier inquiries.
The Tribunal has welcomed this concession, because of the seriousness of the injuries to Hauraki iwi by war and raupatu. In relation to the intersecting claims of Tainui and Hauraki over the Maramurua forest, the Tribunal had concluded that the Crown has met its obligations concerning the forest under the 1995 act, and that the forest lands, and other Crown lands in Hauraki, are potentially open to negotiations between Hauraki and the Office of Treaty Settlements in settlement of the Hauraki claims.
The Crown’s systematic purchase of Hauraki lands was a third major aspect of the Hauraki claims. Despite early purchases and confiscation, Hauraki iwi in 1865 still possessed some 80 per cent of their traditional lands. By 1900, they possessed no more than 20 per cent and at the time of hearing only about 2.6 per cent.
This dispossession had been carried out under the mechanisms provided by the Native Land Acts and under legislation which secured the Crown a monopoly right of purchase over most Hauraki land. The tribes did not generally have access to an open market or the opportunity to lease. The Tribunal’s report shows that (contrary to general opinion) the Native Lands Act 1862 was applied in Hauraki, without the two-stage process provided of first granting a tribal title then allowing the community to make considered decisions about multiple uses of the land, including their own farming or forestry enterprises as well as sale and leasing. Subsequent legislation – notably the 1865 and 1873 Acts – were little more than convenient mechanisms to divide the owners and facilitate purchase.
Despite successive governments’ rhetoric that they wished Maori as well as settlers to develop land, Maori aspirations in this regard were persistently frustrated, rather than fostered, by the Native Land Acts. Even after the Stout–Ngata commission in 1907 reported that Hauraki tribes could not afford to sell any more land, the 1909 Act again included mechanisms to facilitate purchase and the Crown launched a further campaign of systematic purchase in the district. The Tribunal has concluded that systematic purchase under the Native Land Acts exceeded even war and raupatu in its far-reaching and damaging consequences to Hauraki Maori.
In this report, and in its earlier report on Tikapa Moana (the Hauraki Gulf), the Tribunal has recognised the enormous importance to Maori of the seas, foreshores and inland waterways. In relation to foreshores and the seabed, the Hauraki Tribunal did not revisit the legal issues reported upon by a previous Tribunal but it did examine the complexity of customary interests in the Thames and Coromandel foreshores. It also concluded that the Crown’s withdrawal of the Native Land Court’s jurisdiction over foreshores after 1872 prejudiced Maori interests.
The Hauraki claims related to many issues which arise in other districts as well: old land claims and pre-emption waiver purchases, Crown purchases before 1865, the purchase of timber, thermal springs, the loss of taonga and wahi tapu, the rating of Maori land, and public works takings. In short, this is one of the most far-ranging and comprehensive reports produced under the Treaty of Waitangi Act. It will assist in the settlement of the historical claims process generally. Moreover, for the general as well as the academic reader, it modifies existing historical understandings of many of the most important issues in post-1840 New Zealand.