Mangatu Blocks Incorporation chairman Alan Haronga has welcomed the news from the Waitangi Tribunal that a date had been set for 18 June 2012 to hear its urgent claim for the return of their ancestral land.
Mangatu owners are seeking the return of 8,626 acres that it was coerced into selling by the Crown in 1961 for erosion control purposes caused by European settlers clearing the land for farming. The Crown did not disclose to the owners that the planted forest would be a commercial asset for the Crown.
"In terms of legal history our case is ground breaking," says Alan. "The Waitangi Tribunal has never been challenged before to fulfill their obligations under the Crown Forestry Assets Act which provides for the Tribunal to identify and process all claims to Crown Forest Land and make recommendations for the return of that land."
"It has been 20 years to get to this point. We have taken our case to every court in the land including the Supreme Court who found in our favour in May last year and directed the Waitangi Tribunal to hear our case urgently, "said Alan.
Mangatu Blocks Incorporation represents the original ancestral owners of the 8626 acres, which was held in fee simple. The land transaction was found to be unfair in a 2004 Report by the Waitangi Tribunal who concluded, "the Crown was far from scrupulously fair, even-handed, or honest," and determined that Mangatu has a well founded claim.
Mangatu Blocks Incorporation was formed in 1893 and was the first Incorporation established by Maori to protect their land. It was the example later followed by other Maori landowners to quell the loss of Maori owned land during the unprecedented land seizures of the 1800s.
"We have a duty to get back what our tipuna fought so hard to retain," says Alan.
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