University of Hawai'i Press

It was a year of some highs, which included a number of Māori athletes competing in the Olympic Games and their medal haul, as well as two important victories in the courts. But the battle for justice, equity, and recognition of Māori rights continued unabated in the face of increasingly harsh socioeconomic conditions and an uncaring government. Before we consider a selection of these successes and struggles, we pause to consider some of the many Māori leaders we lost over the past year.

Ngāpō Wehi of Ngāi Tūhoe, Whakatōhea, Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau a Apanui, and Ngāti Kahu—kapa haka exponent, composer, choreographer, and teacher—passed away in July 2016. He and his late wife Pīmia had been involved in kapa haka (traditional Māori performing arts) for more than fifty years. They earned respect and recognition as two of the great leaders of the art, leading their kapa haka teams to win prestigious national competitions six times (Haami 2013, 7; Mane 2016a).

Another kapa haka exponent, orator, musician, and gifted saxophonist, the Reverend Te Napi Tūtewehiwehi Waaka, passed away in November. He was Tainui and Ngāti Pikiao and was well known for his charismatic charm and his ability to send crowds into fits of laughter (Māori Television 2016b). Within a fortnight, his relation Mita Mohi of Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, and Ngāti Tūwharetoa also left us. As an exponent of the art of mau rākau (Māori weaponry), he had set up programs to train young men, including thousands who were at risk, in traditional weaponry skills (Makiha 2016).

The loss of Awanuiārangi Black at the age of forty-eight soon after was keenly felt. A leader of Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Pukenga, and Ngāti Raukawa ki Ōtaki, he served on a number of bodies including the National Iwi Chairs Forum, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo (the Māori Language Commission). He also led the campaign for formal commemorations of the British invasion of Tauranga Moana in the 1860s (Cairns and others 2016). A fortnight later, singer Bunny Te Kōkiri Miha Waahi Walters (Ngāi Te Rangi) passed away. He recorded a number of hits in the 1970s (Māori Television 2016a).

In January 2017, it was Ngāpuhi's Iwi Puihi (Percy) Tīpene, founding member and chairperson of Waka Kai Ora (Māori Organics Aotearoa). Percy had extensive knowledge of primary industries, having been a government auditor, advisor, and technician. He combined this experience with a deep knowledge of tikanga (Māori law) to establish the world's first indigenous [End Page 174] organic verification system, Hua Parakore (Hutchings and others 2012; Organics Aotearoa New Zealand 2017). We also lost Tama Nikora in January. Tama was a former chairman of the Tūhoe Waikaremoana Trust Board and their spokesperson throughout the Urewera inquiry in the Waitangi Tribunal. He strongly criticized and opposed both the Tūhoe settlement and the Central North Island settlement, which extinguished the claims that he had fought so hard for (Te Kani Williams [Tūhoe], pers comm, 14 July 2017). Tainui's Tokoroa Pompey passed away in February. Another gifted saxophonist, as well as a singer, comedian, and all-around entertainer, he was a member of several of the Māori showbands that toured nationally and internationally in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a strong supporter of Tainui's Kīngitanga movement and acted as spokesperson for both the queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, and her son, King Tūheitia (Gardiner-Hoskins 2014). In May, it was lawyer John Te Manihera Chadwick (Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Kahungunu), the founder of the New Zealand Māori Law Society. He mentored generations of young Māori lawyers, saw each of the three partners in his Rotorua legal firm become judges, and made huge contributions to the community, especially young people (Adlam 2017). Then, in June, we lost one of the most outstanding and formidable advocates for the recognition of Māori authority and power in the environmental arena: Dame Ngāneko Minhinnick of Ngāti Te Ata, Waiohua, and Waikato-Tainui. It was Ngāneko's claim to the Waitangi Tribunal about the pollution of the Manukau Harbour in Auckland and the Waikato River, as well as her fight to stop New Zealand Steel digging up her ancestors' bones from iron sands on the west coast, that eventually brought a halt to the abuse and despoliation. This claim also saw Māori responsibility for the well-being of the natural environment recognized in legislation. Ngāneko had to seek support from the United Nations in her endless battles against the Pākehā (European) ignorance and greed that had wrought so much damage to her ancestral seas and lands. That resulted in the first of the now three reports of UN rapporteurs who were invited to investigate the state of human rights of Māori, all of which have condemned the New Zealand government's treatment of Māori (Daes 1988; Stavenhagen 2006; Anaya 2011). We bade each of these leaders and many others farewell over the past year as they commenced their journey to join their ancestors.

We were excited to see the number of Māori who competed in Rio in the Olympic Games in August and the Paralympic Games in September. Māori Television listed fifty-four Māori athletes, coaches, and an official, with forty-nine of them representing New Zealand (Mane 2016b). Forty-six took part in the Olympics and made up one-quarter of the New Zealand team. Four took part in the Paralympics. Our canoer extraordinaire, Lisa Carrington (Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Ngāti Porou) led the New Zealand Olympic team medal haul with a gold and a bronze. Our sevens rugby women, ten of whom are Māori (in a team of fifteen) won silver. Australia, who had Amy Turner of [End Page 175] Tainui on their team, beat our team to the gold. But it was the medal haul of our Paralympians that was outstanding: Cameron Leslie (Ngāpuhi) won a gold in swimming; Emma Foy (also Ngāpuhi) won a silver and a bronze in cycling; and Holly Robinson (Ngāi Tahu) won a silver in javelin.

Back home, the ongoing issues that continued to gnaw at Māori and sap our energy included ever-present racism, homelessness, and the abuse of Māori children in state institutions. On top of these, Māori continued to try to protect ourselves from legislative moves to remove even more of our rights, including the divisive treaty claims settlement process; the rewriting of the Māori Land Act; the implementation of the Marine and Coastal Area Act, which is the largest ever confiscation of Māori land; and the refusal to recognize Māori ownership of fresh water—all of which demonstrates the New Zealand government's ongoing lack of compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The rest of this review will consider how Māori tried to address each of these issues over the past year. This includes noting a few positive highlights.

For many years now, academics and a number of Māori professionals have been drawing attention to the damage caused to Māori by the systemic racism that pervades both government and nongovernment institutions (McIntosh and Mulholland 2011). Denial of the existence of racism is problematic, with some Pākehā (Europeans), fearing the loss of White privilege, characteristically seeking to silence individuals who raise the issue (Abel and Mutu 2011). But an increasing number of Māori leaders have continued to speak out and, in recent years, have been joined by some Pākehā leaders (Husband 2016). In September, in a move that reflected the growing realization that the issue can no longer be ignored, the Human Rights Commission launched its "That's Us" campaign as New Zealand's first anti-racism campaign. It called on New Zealanders to share their stories of racism, intolerance, and hatred, and then published a large number of them on its website (NZ Human Rights Commission 2017). Complementing that was the June/July edition of the long-running Mana magazine, which focused on racism and ran under the title "New Zealand's Shameful Secret" (Hayden 2016). The issue included in-depth articles on institutional racism—in the health care system, in the justice system, in prisons, and in state welfare institutions. Each piece drew on well-known research and painted horrific pictures of the realities of each of these sectors. They highlighted the government's callous and uncaring refusal to address the problems in any meaningful way. In June, the Human Rights Commission reported having reached more than three million people with its "That's Us" campaign and that it was launching the second stage of its campaign, "Give Nothing to Racism," aimed at stopping interpersonal racism. The campaign is being fronted by the 2017 New Zealander of the Year, Taika Waititi (Te Whānau a Apanui), the award-winning film director, actor, and comedian, whose best-known achievements to date are his films Boy and Hunt for the Wilder-people (tvnz 2017b). [End Page 176]

Difficulties faced in trying to eradicate racism stem at least in part from what leading constitutional expert Moana Jackson has labeled a "deliberate misremembering" of the country's brutal history of British colonization (2016). Although the Waitangi Tribunal has been reporting in detail over the past thirty-five years on the atrocities committed, this history is still not taught in almost all of the country's schools. For several years now, Māori in the areas invaded by the British in the 1860s have been holding commemorations. Initially, the government refused to contribute or participate. In 2014, two high school students mounted a petition calling for a national day to commemorate the British invasions. In October 2016, the government announced that starting in 2017, 28 October would be the "New Zealand Wars" commemoration day. A more accurate description would be the "Sovereignty Wars" to reflect the fact that they were wars to take power, lives, and land from Māori. The misnaming of the day raised questions about whether it signals that the government would persist in trying to silence hapū (grouping of extended families) and iwi (nation) knowledge of the injustice, cruelty, and brutality of the invasions. As Jackson noted: "If a commemoration merely expresses regret for the painful wrong of wars without having the courage to address [the constitutional and political power structures it imposed] through a process of constitutional transformation, it is not a commemoration at all. It will simply be a deceit, rather like a burglar regretting the wrong but keeping the spoils" (Jackson 2016).

While the Sovereignty Wars may be over, the brutality of colonization and the racism that underpins it has never ended. The plight of Māori children in state welfare institutions has highlighted most starkly the immeasurable harm that has been done by successive governments' refusal to intervene and stop the racist behavior of those entrusted with the care of those children. New Zealand is one of the few commonwealth countries not to have had a public inquiry into child abuse in state institutions. The report of the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service sounded the alarm about abuse dating back to the 1950s (Henwood 2015). Having listened to the accounts of more than 1,100 survivors, Judge Caroline Henwood, chairwoman of the service, wrote, "I was deeply shocked by the stories and by the overall level of violence and abuse that New Zealanders were willing to inflict on children. … The most shocking thing was that most of this was preventable. If people had been doing their jobs properly and if proper systems had been in place, much of this abuse could have been avoided with better oversight" (2015, 12).

Stories reminiscent of the treatment of Native American and First Nations children in the residential schools of the United States and Canada and the stolen generations in Australia are now being heard in New Zealand (Smith 2009, 29; Newshub 2017). Henwood approached National Iwi Chairs Forum desperately seeking support for the victims of the state welfare institutions, most of whom are Māori. While the service is bound by confidentiality not to divulge the details of the abuse, iwi leaders knew about it and supported Henwood. So [End Page 177] too did the Human Rights Commission and a number of prominent New Zealanders who sent an open letter to the government calling for an independent inquiry (Johnston 2017). Hen-wood also drew up "A Covenant for Our Nation's Children," a statement that commits to protecting children from violence, abuse, and neglect and to providing them with a proper standard of living. It also promises to support their emotional and mental well-being, provide them with education, and take children's views into account (Henwood 2016). The National Iwi Chairs' Forum signed the covenant in August, but the government refused to endorse it and has continued to refuse to hold an inquiry into abuse of children in state institutions.

Many Māori children who were state wards end up in prison in later life as a result of the abuse. In April, the Waitangi Tribunal released its report on disproportionate reoffending rates (Waitangi Tribunal 2017). Māori have an imprisonment rate that is more than three times that of the general population. We consistently make up over 50 percent of the prison population, and Māori women make up over 60 percent of the female prison population. For many, incarceration has become normalized. The tribunal noted that the disparity between Māori and non-Māori reoffending rates is long-standing and substantial. High Māori reoffending rates contribute to the disproportionate imprisonment of Māori. The tribunal found the Crown, through the Department of Corrections, to be in breach of its treaty obligations by failing to prioritize the reduction of the high rate of Māori reoffending relative to non-Māori. The tribunal's recommendations included creation of a new Māori-specific strategic framework, the development of targets to reduce Māori reoffending rates in partnership with Māori, and the Crown's establishment of a dedicated budget to appropriately resource these actions.

Homelessness also continues to have a disproportionate impact on Māori. Last year's burgeoning homeless figures have continued to escalate to the point that they are higher than at any other time in recent memory (Twyford, Davidson, and Fox 2016, 2). In many cases, those affected are working families. No longer is the problem evident only in Auckland and the bigger cities; it is also on the rise in Rotorua, Tauranga, Hamilton, and Kaitāia as the homeless travel farther afield trying to find relief. Although the government ignored calls for an inquiry into homelessness, Labour, the Greens, and the Māori Party conducted a cross-party inquiry. Their report, published in October, made twenty recommendations, including increasing rather than decreasing the state housing stock and making Housing New Zealand a public service instead of a state-owned enterprise charged with paying a dividend to the government and tax on its income (Twyford, Davidson, and Fox 2016, 12–16).

The fundamentally flawed treaty claims settlement process has continued to visit almost unbearable pain on communities as it tears them apart. Arguments within Ngāpuhi—the country's largest iwi with more than 120 hapū and over three hundred claims—have highlighted the shortcomings of the process. The divisions [End Page 178] it has caused there have been drawing media attention for several years now. The government has told them that all Ngāpuhi claims must be bundled together under one settlement, even though elsewhere in the country hapū have succeeded in having their claims settled individually. This is the government's "large natural grouping" policy. It is a key part of the treaty claims settlement policy, whose aim is to extinguish as many claims as possible within each legislated settlement in order to remove hard-won legal rights. This includes the compulsory return to Māori of certain types of lands through orders made by the Waitangi Tribunal. Coupled with the government-imposed cap on the overall size of the combined settlements, the inevitable result is that almost all claims are being extinguished without being addressed, and, of the few that are addressed, none have been addressed fully (Mutu 2017b). Painfully aware of these restrictions and injustices, claimants still fight for the return of at least some of what was stolen. Deciding who is mandated to negotiate these settlements has been fraught with difficulty for almost every iwi (Mutu 2017b). The reason is simple: It was not the imposed "large natural groupings" that had their lands stolen, lives taken, and rights removed—it was whānau (extended families) and hapū in the thousands of Māori papa kāinga (homelands) throughout the country. So each whānau and hapū will inevitably fight to make sure that their claim is addressed. By imposing a "large natural grouping" structure over the settlements process, the government is attempting to socially engineer the demise of whānau and hapū and their claims, causing an inevitable backlash. It is therefore unsurprising that the Waitangi Tribunal continues to receive applications about injustices being perpetrated in the settlements but, in keeping with previous decisions, almost all have been declined hearings. In the past year, these included Ngāti Mihiroa against the Heretaunga Tamatea Deed of Settlement (Haimona 2017) and Whanganui iwi against the Taurewa Forest Deed of Settlement (Reilly 2017b). In some rare cases, claimants have the financial resources to seek judicial reviews of tribunal decisions. One, from Āraukūkū hapū—whose claims were extinguished in the Ngāruahine settlement after the tribunal refused to hear them—has been unsuccessful in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal (Watson 2016).

In contrast, two others, Ngāti Kahu and Te Aitanga a Māhaki, have been successful in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, setting an important precedent (Kapa-Kingi 2016). Both had to apply repeatedly to be heard by the tribunal. They were only granted hearings after Te Aitanga a Māhaki successfully challenged the tribunal's refusal to hear them in the Supreme Court in 2011 (Supreme Court of New Zealand 2011). But the Waitangi Tribunal has been under threat for many years now. The threat is that if they made the orders sought by Te Aitanga a Māhaki and Ngāti Kahu to return certain Crown land, the government would abolish the tribunal (Hamer 2004, 7)—a very serious breach of the rule of law. So neither applicant was granted the orders to which they were legally entitled. Both successfully appealed to the High [End Page 179] Court. On appeal in the Court of Appeal, the court issued directions in December that the tribunal had to make a decision rather than continuing to defer to the government's treaty claims settlement policy. The Crown did not appeal the decision, and so both iwi are now back before the Waitangi Tribunal waiting yet again for a hearing.

An even more groundbreaking precedent came out of the Supreme Court in February. The Wakatū Incorporation and kaumātua (elder) Rore Pat Stafford of Nelson, having been denied the right to have their claim negotiated and settled separately, filed for urgency in the tribunal. Like so many others, they failed to get a hearing. In 2010, they filed proceedings in the High Court claiming that the Crown owed fiduciary duties to the Māori customary owners of land in Nelson, dating back to 1839. The land had been given over on the basis that one-tenth—some 15,100 acres—would be reserved for the original Māori owners; however, the terms of the arrangement had not been met and the land was never fully allocated. Despite the government having extinguished all the claims made to the Waitangi Tribunal for Te Tau Ihu (the top of the South Island) in the 2014 settlement, a majority of the Supreme Court found that a fiduciary duty existed and that it had been breached. It found that Mr Stafford, as a descendant of some of the original owners, is entitled to pursue remedies in the High Court (Reilly 2017a). The decision is significant for its recognition of enforceable fiduciary duties in relation to nineteenth-century land transactions. Even though the government asserts that the treaty claims settlement process fully and finally extinguishes all historical claims in a geographical area, this decision recognizes that there is a further means of redress through the courts in certain circumstances.

Stung by both these court decisions, the government has flooded the media with pro-settlement propaganda as it continues to drive through as many settlements as it can. Settlements legislated in the past year included Te Atiawa, Taranaki Iwi, Ngāruahine, Rangitāne o Manawatū, and Whanganui River (Office of Treaty Settlements 2017). But the government has struggled to overcome the attention also being paid to the anger of those being divided and disenfranchised by the settlement process. A major research project being undertaken with claimants and negotiators is beginning to identify the extent of the devastation that treaty claims settlements are causing (McDowell 2016; Mutu and others 2017). Examples of the government's dishonesty, including probable fraud, in negotiations are being reported across the country, as are examples of its stand over tactics in dictating what settlements will be; its divide-and-rule tactics and the damage this has wrought among and between whānau, hapū, and iwi; its use of manipulation and then bullying and duress against claimants who refuse to comply; and its refusal to address almost all of the claims before legislatively extinguishing them (Mutu 2017b). Claimants and negotiators are clear that, contrary to government assertions, none of the settlements are full and final and they will be revisited. In August 2016, National Iwi Chairs Forum warned the government [End Page 180] that all its settlements would unravel after it reneged on the loathed 1992 fisheries settlement in order to ban fishing in Ngāti Kurī's Te Rangitāhua territory with its proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary (Mutu 2017a, 149). The proposal has not been progressed.

A beleaguered minister of Māori development continued to battle Māori resistance to the rewriting of the Māori Land Act 1993 (Mutu 2017a, 149–150). In June, when it became obvious that the opposition was making it an election issue, he dropped it, undertaking to revisit it if he was returned to the government after the election. There is also little comment about more than three hundred applications reportedly made to the High Court for recognition of extremely restricted Māori customary title and use rights provided for in the Marine and Coastal Area Act. The act confiscates Māori ownership of our foreshores and seabed and sets a high bar for Māori to meet in order to gain any recognition. Rather than submitting to the act, at least one iwi, Ngāti Kahu, has required the government to meet the same bar in order to prove it has any rights to these lands within Ngāti Kahu's territories. The government failed to meet the tests and as such has been found to have no rights or title in Ngāti Kahu's foreshore and seabed (Te Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu 2017).

The government is also sidestepping the matter of the ownership of freshwater, having refused to carry out its promise to the Supreme Court in 2013 to address the issue of Māori rights and interests in freshwater. However, there is mounting pressure from the rest of the population to charge freshwater bottling companies and farmers who irrigate their lands for their use of the resource. When some of the bottling companies illegally tapped into Māori-owned springs, efforts to stop them were not always successful, and several of those cases are still being heard in the Waitangi Tribunal. Ngāti Tama ki te Waipounamu's case was an exception. As guardians of the sacred Waikoropūpū springs in Golden Bay, whose waters are some of the clearest in the world, Ngāti Tama took the Tasman District Council to the High Court to stop them illegally authorizing a bottling company to take their water. Their win and the government's undertaking to consider a water protection order for the springs are positive steps for Ngāti Tama (tvnz 2017).

Margaret Mutu

margaret mutu is the professor of Māori studies at the University of Auckland and is of Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whatua, and Scottish descent. With a PhD in Māori studies and linguistics from the University of Auckland, her research interests include recording and translating oral traditions; Polynesian linguistics; and Māori resource management, conservation practices, and Treaty of Waitangi claims against the Crown. She has published four books and many articles; her third book, The State of Māori Rights (2011), is an expanded, updated, and annotated compilation of her reviews of Māori issues for The Contemporary Pacific from 1995 to 2009.


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