The below article appeared in the Opotiki News on Thursday 11 October.

The people of Whakatōhea are being asked to vote this month on whether they support the Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust continuing negotiations towards a Settlement for the iwi, or whether they want treaty negotiations stopped for a re-mandating process, or a full Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry into the historical grievances of the iwi.

With voting now underway, and due to close on 26 October, Maui Hudson, of Ngai Tamahaua, and Negotiator for the Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust, shares his view on why voting yes to continued negotiations by the Trust, is a vote for progress.

“I was interested to see the opinion piece published by Tuariki Delamere on Tuesday where he shared his thoughts on the shortcomings of the negotiations process. His thoughts echo those expressed by a number of claimants who feel a full district inquiry is the best option for Whakatōhea moving forward. What wasn’t covered was any analysis of the significance of the comprehensive offer that sits before Whakatōhea currently.

In 1996, members of Whakatōhea looked at the $40 million being offered by the Crown and said it wasn’t good enough. At that time, they didn’t say no because they want a full district inquiry, and they certainly didn’t say no to wait another 22 years for another opportunity. They said no because the offer, negotiated in the early days of Treaty Settlements, failed to adequately compensate Whakatōhea for the vast confiscations of land, the destruction of property, and the murder of innocent civilians.

It has been both a privilege and responsibility to be involved with this second negotiation process.

We went into it with a deep sense of the importance of this settlement to bring honour and justice to our tupuna, as well as hope and promise to our mokopuna.

We wanted to restore the spirit of optimism for a future of wealth and prosperity that our rangatira had when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi. That’s why a key focus of the negotiations is a focus on the future and how the Crown would assist in the restoration of Whakatōhea’s influence over the land, the seas, and its people. Mana Whenua, Mana Tangata, and Mana Moana became the bottom lines in terms of appropriate redress.

So, what is on the table now and how does that differ from 1996?

In terms of mana whenua, the amount of land being returned (6692ha) is far in excess of what is normally provided and recognises the significant land loss. In addition to the land being returned we will also have a Whakatōhea Chapter within the Bay of Plenty Conservation Management Strategy. This allows us to say what is important to us across the rest of the Department of Conservation estate and how we think it should be managed. Department of Conservation land wasn’t part of the 1996 settlement and this particular combination of redress mechanisms hasn’t appeared in any other settlement.

In terms of mana moana, the allocation of 5000ha of marine space for aquaculture development is a unique component of this settlement package. Given the lack of crown farms or forests within our rohe we had to look out to the ocean for a resource with some commercial potential. It was helpful that Whakatōhea already has interests in the Eastern Seafarm and burgeoning mussel development, but there were a number of hurdles to cross to make this a reality. Marine space was entirely absent in 1996, it wasn’t possible before the Maori Aquaculture Act came into being in 2004, and hadn’t been used in the context of an Iwi settlement. The prospective value of the marine space that has been secured has a potential to dwarf the value of the settlement within the next generation.

In terms of Mana Tangata, here we focus on the different ways we can enrich our people. $15 million has been set aside for specific initiatives including a te reo revitalisation fund, and education endowment fund, a cultural revitalisation fund, a reserve lands development, and a marine and harbour fund. We prioritised a relationship with the Tertiary Education Commission as capacity building is vital to realising the benefits of development. If we train people but can’t create jobs, we just export them to other places. If we create jobs, but our people don’t have the skills we end up importing labour. The balance of the financial redress consisted of $85 million, which combined with the $15m, creates a $100m package, two and a half times larger than the offer in 1996.

Taken as a whole, this is one of the largest and most innovative settlement packages ever developed. This settlement hasn’t just been devised by the Trust and marae and hapū representatives. This settlement reflects the aspirations of people of Whakatōhea who genuinely want a better future for their iwi.

The Trust has been fortunate that a number of people have put their hand up to help. Whakatōhea members offered their expertise through Te Roopu Awhina and the outcome reflects their contributions too. In real terms, the settlement itself will equip our iwi to assert huge authority and influence over and within our rohe in a practical expression of mana whenua, mana tangata and mana moana.

Right now, our whānau have a choice. We are all free to choose but we are not free from the consequences of our choice. The choice we made in 1996 was the right choice because the settlement offer wasn’t a good one, but it left us in limbo for the next 22 years.

We don’t need a full district inquiry to negotiate this offer and a report is unlikely to result in any improvements. When Professor Ranginui Walker stood up at the Te Tarata commemorations and spoke directly to Minister Finlayson and Minister Flavell he didn’t ask for a full district inquiry, he told them it was time to negotiate with Whakatōhea and give them the settlement they deserve.

We have the settlement we deserve on the table right now, and that’s why I encourage all Whakatōhea whānau to vote, vote to re-confirm your faith in the Trust to continue negotiations, so we can finish the work our tupuna started.

No reira te whānau, Whakatōhea maurua.”