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Waitangi Tribunal makes interim recommendation to return Mangatu Crown forest licensed land to Maori ownership

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Waitangi Tribunal has today released the Mangatū Remedies Report in pre-publication format. In the report, the Waitangi Tribunal makes an interim recommendation that the Crown return to Māori ownership those parts of the Mangatū Crown forest land which lie in the north of the Tūranganui a Kiwa (Gisborne) district, together with monetary compensation.

In 2018 the Mangatū Remedies Inquiry heard applications for such a recommendation from claimant groups: Te Aitanga a Māhaki and the Mangatū Incorporation, Ngā Uri o Tamanui, and Te Whānau a Kai. Another group, Te Rangiwhakataetaea-Wi Haronga-Ngāti Matepu, participated in the Inquiry as an interested party. The purpose of the Remedies Inquiry was to determine whether the Tribunal should exercise its powers, under section 8HB of the Treaty of

Waitangi Act, to recommend the return of the MangatÅ« Crown forest land to Māori ownership. 

If so, the Tribunal was also required to decide how much of the land to return, and to which claimant groups. Section 36 and Schedule 1 of the Crown Forests Assets Act 1989 also provide for successful claimants to receive monetary compensation, as well as the land. The amount of compensation is calculated to reflect the value of the cutting rights for the Mangatū Crown forest, which were sold by the Crown in 1992.

The claimants in this Inquiry all previously participated in the Tribunal’s TÅ«ranganui a Kiwi District Inquiry (2000-2004), which found that they and others were affected by a wide range of Crown Treaty breaches in the district during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Those breaches included the Crown’s acquisition of parts of the land now comprising the MangatÅ« Crown forest land. The Tribunal found that Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Ngā Uri o Tamanui, and Te Whānau a Kai, customary owners of the MangatÅ« Crown forest land, were prejudiced by the Crown’s Treaty breaches, with devastating and long-lasting effects.

In 2011, the Supreme Court (in Haronga v Waitangi Tribunal) directed the Tribunal to urgently hear the MangatÅ« Incorporation’s remedies application. In its 2014 MangatÅ« Remedies report, the Tribunal did not make a recommendation concerning the MangatÅ« Crown forest land. The report was judicially reviewed by the MangatÅ« Incorporation and other claimants in 2014, and overturned by the High Court in 2015. The MangatÅ« Remedies Inquiry was reconvened in 2017 following the Attorney General’s unsuccessful appeal of the High Court’s decision.

When considering whether to recommend the return of Crown forest land to Māori, the Tribunal is required by statute to follow a carefully sequenced series of steps, making determinations at every stage. The MangatÅ« Remedies Report records these determinations and the rationale for them, before delivering the Tribunal’s overall interim recommendation. The key Tribunal decisions supporting the recommendation are:

- The claims of Te Aitanga a Māhaki and the Mangatū Incorporation, Ngā Uri o Tamanui and Te Whānau a Kai are well-founded.

- A range of those well-founded claims relate to the MangatÅ« Crown forest land. The relevant claims address Crown Treaty breaches that led to the loss of the claimants’ tino rangatiratanga and mana whenua in that land. The claims concern both the specific circumstances in which the land was lost from Māori ownership, as well as the Crown’s wider actions that were specifically designed to destroy Māori autonomy and control over their lands in TÅ«ranga.

- As a remedy for the prejudice suffered by the claimants, the whole of the Mangatū CFL land should be returned to Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Ngā Uri o Tamanui, and Te Whānau a Kai.

- The claimants should receive the full financial compensation available under Schedule 1 of the Crown Forests Assets Act.

- The MangatÅ« land should be returned to a collective Trust to be established by the claimants called the MangatÅ« Forest Collective Trust. The Trust’s beneficiaries would be the legally-recognised governance entities that Te Aitanga a Māhaki Trust, Ngā Uri

- Tamanui, and Te Whānau a Kai established following the 2018 remedies hearings, and which were ratified by the claimant communities.

The claimant parties and the Crown now have a period of 90 days to begin to negotiate the settlement of their claims. If an alternative agreement is reached through these negotiations, the Tribunal will cancel or modify its interim recommendation as necessary. Otherwise, after the 90 days has passed, the Tribunal’s interim recommendation becomes binding on the Crown.

The Mangatū Remedies Inquiry panel comprises Judge Stephanie Milroy (presiding), Dr Ann Parsonson, Mr Tim Castle, and Ahonuku Tom Roa. Hearings were held in Gisborne and Wellington between August 2018 and July 2019.

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