Fletchers staring at forced Ihumatao sale

Since the Maori king made the unsurprising announcement during the week that Ihumatao land should be given to “mana whenua”, Fletchers may be forced to sell with the Government being the only buyer.

While that view may appear extreme, that was the outcome of a similar situation that started at Maunganui Bluff in Northland in 1987, when protesters claimed that parts of two farms were Maori land and set about occupying one farm.

That farm had a coastal strip with consent to subdivide as housing and the owner, Allan Titford, had pre-sold several sections.

Even though Titford had title to the farm traceable back to the purchase of the Maunganui Block from Maori vendors in 1876, the Government would not support Titford’s property rights as owner.

Similarly, the Government is not supporting Fletchers, who have title to the land at Ihumatao traceable to 1866, when Gavin Wallace of county Argyll, Scotland, became owner of the land.

The claim for land on Titford’s farm, and for part of his neighbour Don Harrison’s farm, as well as land owned by five others in the Northland area, was spun into the Te Roroa Report 1992 which recommended in favour of the Maori claimants.

That made the land owned by those seven farmers unsalable to anyone other than the Government, which in turn meant that the Government could dictate the price.

Harrison was the first to sell, in disgust, in 1993, and that was on the day that the Government amended the Treaty of Waitangi Act so that the Waitangi Tribunal could not make recommendations on private land.

Titford tried to hold out, but the subdivision did not proceed because no one would go near disputed land. He was eventually forced to sell in 1995, with most of the sale price used to repay debt. The other farmers eventually begged the Government to buy their farms. Much of the area the Government bought was given to Te Roroa claimants.

Titford remains intensely disappointed that the Waitangi Tribunal failed to match his research that showed that the wahi tapu Maori reserves alleged to exist on both farms were never reserves and were simply pieces of land that the claimants wanted.

At the time of the Maunganui Bluff land protest affecting Titford, Harrison, and five other farmers, there were at least five other instances of Maori land claims devaluing land during sale and purchase transactions in Northland.

If Fletchers are forced to sell under the shadow of the current land claim, they may achieve the price they paid for the land but would have extreme difficulty in getting compensation for holding costs and loss of expected profit. They would be lucky to break even.

Kiingi Tuhetia’s statement that "mana whenua agreed the return of the land is outside of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process” implies that he thinks the Government is a gift that keeps on giving.

This attitude is hardly surprising because under the Treaty settlement process, Waikato-Tainui has been treated extremely well.

The iwi was given financial redress of $170 million in 1995, as well as relativity top-ups of $70 million in 2012, $190 million in 2017, and $16.6 million last year. These top-ups, which amount to 17 percent of all new Treaty settlements, will continue until the Treaty settlement process ends.

This is on top of the so-called full and final Waikato-Maniapoto Maori Claims Settlement Act 1946 to settle confiscation grievances, annual payments of which continue.

The Maori king’s statement last Wednesday, which flip-flopped on earlier support for the Fletcher development, mentioned “mana whenua” and “rightful owners” without specifying who these could be.

Perhaps the current Maori king, Kiingi Tuhetia, believes he is the rightful owner because the first Maori king, Te Wherowhero, lived at Ihumatao in 1858, when he was “crowned” as Potatau I.

He made no reference to Te Ahiwaru, whose land was confiscated, granted to Gavin Wallace, and sold to Fletchers. Te Ahiwaru were recognised among Maori as owners of that area only from 1858 to 1863, and that was after winning an argument that they had owned it before 1840.

There is no record of a group called Te Ahiwaru having a claim entered in the Treaty settlement process.

We think that the remaining protesters at Ihumatao should be evicted, and the Government should confirm that both Te Kawerau a Maki and Fletchers proceed with their lawful business. Our petition may be signed at  http://chng.it/xPN6P55k We have collected 2525 signatures.

If the Treaty settlement process is ignored at Ihumatao, and if Fletchers are forced to sell, these claimants and this Government would have shown that settlements are not final, that every one of the 80 or so settlements may be relitigated, and that the Treaty settlement process has become a mockery.

Auckland mayoralty contender pushes equality

For Hobson’s Pledge newsletter readers, Michael Coote should stand out among the 21 candidates for the Auckland mayoralty.

This is because he argues that the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Auckland City “must be a society of strict racial equality for all” and “must respect this fundamental principle of modern liberal democratic civilisation”.

He said “Auckland Council's plans, policies, procedures and structures should not discriminate in favour of Maori members of the community over any others, but should apply equal status, validity and opportunity to all Aucklanders as residents and ratepayers”.

Mr Coote is also standing for the Waitakere Ward, Henderson-Massey local board.

Petitions update

We launched a petition which asks Parliament to amend the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 to restore public ownership of the coastal area, put all claims through the High Court, repeal customary marine title, while affirming customary rights. We have picked up 3563 signatures. We need your support. The petition may be signed at http://chng.it/stXwrrtFLY

Our petition to welcome the Endeavour replica to New Zealand gained additional support when Far North iwi Ngati Kahu “banned” the flotilla from Mangonui and flotilla organisers responded by refusing to go there. In addition, a number of Gisborne iwi announced that they would refuse to do a powhiri, while saying it would be over to “descendants of colonialists who settled in the city” to welcome the visit. We have collected 4371 signatures. To sign, go to http://chng.it/jKMjXXMwGd

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