Saturday, 15 May 2010

Tamati Kruger says return of Te Urewera pivotal to Tuhoe settlement with NZ Crown

The issue
For those who need context, you need to be aware that here in New Zealand  Ngāi Tūhoe, have been in active negotiations with the New Zealand Crown for the last 18 months over their claim under the Treaty of Waitangi for a fair and lasting settlement of the raupatu , or confiscation, of their lands by the NZ crown. This is a long and vexed issue, which the NZ Herald Maori correspondent Yvonne Tahana   neatly summarises this morning, here. 

Te Urewera
Suffice to say, after 18 months of negotiation. both Tuhoe and the other parties, including many crown agencies, believed a draft heads of an agreement was in place  with signature and ratification due this week.  A key  part of the settlement would be the return of the Tuhoe lands in Te Urewera, their tribal homeland in the Urewera Mountains on the East Coast of New Zealand. Currently, much of this area is included in the Te Urewera National Park.

At the 11th hour - last Monday Prime Minister John Key unilaterally declared the return of the Te Urewera to Tuhoe had been taken out of the draft settlement. This move, which also took John Keys co-alition partner, the Maori Party by surprise, continues to provoke fierce debate here in New Zealand. And as the video above shows, events are still very much in play.

Other voices.
Earlier this week, Tariana Turia , the co-leader of the NZ Maori party wrote a moving piece in the NZ Herald on the deep connection Tuhoe have with their ancestral land - here.

Minister Chris Finlayson at Auckland Writers Festival
The New Zealand minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, [OTS] is Chris Finlayson. He is also Attorney General and Minster for the Arts. On Thursday night, in the latter portfolio, he opened the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

It was a slightly awkward affair. First, he took a clumsy swipe at the political affiliations of elder statesman to the NZ literary scene,  Karl Stead. Secondly, and to my surprise, he made reference to the pleasure he once had  listening to the NZ historian Dame Judith Binney give the Michael King Memorial Lecture in 2008.

I was, and remain totally bemused by this reference. I also was at this lecture. In it Dame Judith Binney gave an account of her current research among the Ngai Tuhoe, and couldn't have made it clearer where her sympathies lay.

Moreover, her recent work  Encircled Lands: Te Urewera, 1820-1921 - also speaks forcefully and at length as to the many and often betrayals of trust between the New Zealand Crown and Tuhoe. For more on this see this excellent review by Catherine Masters, here

Dog Whistle?
I'm still trying to work this out - was the Minster giving a long coded dog whistle that he disagreed with his Prime Minister - or was it just crass insensitivity on a stick?  Hopefully the former - but could we please maybe have a bit more clarity to his intention and his position?


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