We’ve seen some big claims over the past few days. Words like “elegant” and "monumental” have been thrown around to describe Tuhoe’s settlement with the Crown. Significant, yes, practical, yes, but I think the deal falls short of elegance and monumentality.
The deal includes a cash settlement worth $170m; this figure includes the $62m the tribe received from the Treelords deal. Adjusted for inflation $170m in 1996 dollars would buy roughly $221m today. In other words, Tuhoe have received a smaller cash settlement than Tainui and Ngai Tahu despite suffering comparable grievances. You can argue otherwise, but I don’t buy it. You can also argue Tainui and Ngai Tahu are larger, but I don’t buy that argument either. The main factor in determining the price of any settlement should be the degree or degrees of grievance.
The settlement also includes ‘mana motuhake’, or a watered down version of mana motuhake. Tuhoe will be given control of social services in their rohe, but other government responsibilities will remain with the Crown. In effect, mana motuhake is another way of saying Whanau Ora, or the devolution of social services.
Having said that, both sides acknowledge that mana motuhake might, or in Tuhoe’s view will, open possibilities to develop full autonomy and this, I think, is thoroughly appropriate. Tuhoe have always maintained that they are an independent nation. In 1896 Parliament acknowledged, or partially acknowledged, Tuhoe independence with the passage of the Urewera District Native Reserve Act. The Act provided for Tuhoe self-governance.
The third significant aspect of the settlement is Te Urewera. The government has opted for their favourite solution to Maori ownership problems – claiming no one owns it. What is now Te Urewera National Park will be vested in a new legal identity and managed by an equal number of Tuhoe representatives and Crown representatives. Positively, and in accordance with Tikanga Maori, decisions will have to be reached by consensus meaning both sides will have the power to veto.
Unfortunately, this is where Tuhoe have been forced to compromise most significantly. Full ownership has always been a bottom line. Full ownership would mean the full restoration of Tuhoe’s mana over their tribal lands. After all, Tuhoe is Te Urewera and Te Urewera is Tuhoe.
Taken as a whole, the deal is less than what many hoped for and less than I expected. The cash aspect falls short, mana motuhake appears to be another name for Whanau Ora and the “no one owns it” approach to the Ureweras does not properly acknowledge Tuhoe’s mana.
None of this detracts from the outstanding work of Tuhoe, especially Tamati Kruger who Yvonne Tahana rightly praises. Tim Selwyn points out that:
All the chips and all the cards in this game are held by the NZ government and they can deal out however many they want to whoever they want and follow whatever rules they themselves make up, so when they say "negotiation" that's not really as wholesome as it would first appear. And when the NZ government says they drove a hard bargain - as Helen Clark used to remind people - all they are saying is that from their position of overwhelming power they have screwed the Iwi over.
Viewed in this light, the deal Tuhoe have managed to drive is arguably a good one.
In the end it’s up for Tuhoe to decide whether or not this is a good bargain. I whakapapa to Tuhoe and I think the deal should and could have been better, but from what I’ve seen most Tuhoe are pleased with the deal and are optimistic. This is a new chapter for Tuhoe and many believe the first step towards their autonomy and the full restoration of their mana. Tamati Kruger is eyeing a 40 year timetable for autonomy, I’m eyeing a shorter timetable.