The Waitangi Tribunal's Te Rohe Pōtae (King Country) district inquiry has taken place this week at the Waitomo Cultural and Arts Centre in Te Kūiti and runs until tomorrow, Friday December 12.
This particular inquiry has spanned more than two years and 16 hui around the district have been held. It encompasses over 170 claims, making it one of the Tribunal's largest district inquiries.
The majority of claimants derive from Ngāti Maniapoto, however, there is also a diverse presence of many other iwi including Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, tribes from Whanganui, Ngāti Hikairo and other tribes affiliated to Tainui waka.
Judge David Ambler is conducting the inquiry and the Tribunal Panel consists of Professor Hirini Moko Mead, Professor Pou Temara, Dr Aroha Harris and Mr John Baird.
Issues that have been brought to the forefront are those in regards to economic development, environmental issues, te moana, tikanga, social and cultural issues, education and health.
In the first two days of the hearing, particular attention was paid to the affect that the raupatu has had on various iwi within the King Country. The main trunk line that runs through the centre of the King Country was also discussed.
Ngāti Maniapoto spokesperson Keith Ikin, says “it’s a significant time for Maniapoto, a time of reflection, a time where we finally get the opportunity to express our views on the relationship between the Crown through our history”.
A significant portion of the discussions have been based around the Ohaki Tapu or sacred oath- a series of agreements with the Crown that recognised the full autonomy over land belonging to tipuna of Te Rohe Pōtae.
Ikin states, “My disappointment is the Crowns failure to recognise the agreement that our old people, Rewi, Taonui, Wahanui made. They agreed with the Crown in 1883 to 1885 around Te Ohaki Tapu.
Iwi of Te Rohe Pōtae are nearing a 10 year long period of tribunal hearings, therefore it is a significant time for them and in particular, Ngāti Maniapoto.
“This week has been an opportunity for the Crown to respond and I acknowledge the Crowns seeding that there was significant land takings within Maniapoto that were illegal and that was a significant outcome for us.”
This is the 16th of 17 scheduled hearing weeks which began in November 2012 and is the final hearing to take place in the Te Rohe Pōtae district. The last scheduled hearing will take place in Wellington in February 2015.