Kāpitis First Treaty of Waitangi Hearing

Opinion piece from Kāpiti Districtwide Councillor Jackie Elliott

Over 100 people attended the final three day evidence session in Kāpiti’s first Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal hearing at Southwards. By having their claims accepted, iwi will be officially mandated. Those who are mandated will be able to speak on behalf of their own hapu.

Many speakers had waited 15 years to present their evidence, covering both past grievances and their hopes for the future. As much of it covered the past 150 years of our history, it was a valuable chance to hear their stories for the first time. Having grown up in Paraparaumu, it was also a rare chance to support many local families from my Paraparaumu childhood. The speakers list of names reminiscent of my childhood school role and local phonebook.

Families came together from many places, bringing their elderly, children, grandies and greats. Also present were those I worked with on Kāpiti Island during my five years as a tour guide there, and those I have worked with during my six years as a KCDC Councilor.

With ‘live’ unresolved historic claims for such strategically important places as the Paraparaumu airport, township and Coastlands land. The Maugatokutoku, Reikiorangi Valleys, the Ngatiawa and Waikanae Rivers, water catchment area and proposed dam site, Paraparaumu Beach, fishing rights across Rau-Te o- Rangi channel and the islands themselves, this was an exceedingly important chapter of our history being formally recorded.

While past grievances with the crown were heard, many individual hapu also spoke of their needs and wishes to provide for their future generations on the whenua they have called home for generations.

For 21 years, Maori/council discussions have been held at the Te Whakaminenga o Kāpiti table, the big three, Ngati Toa Rangatira, Te Atiawa and Ngati Raukawa were representative of all Maori. It has been a ground breaking and important alliance. But going forward, many hapu, this week spoke to the tribunal for their own autonomy. There are about seven different hapu here in our rohe, not three. This was a common theme and one the Tribunal members said they are hearing up and down the country.

Council had scant presence at this hearing. I was there of my own accord and am sorry to say that no other councilors or the Mayor were present at this very important hearing that could have a huge impact on the future of Kāpiti. That is a shame. Two staff each spent a few hours in the audience. It is important that KCDC listen to all of Kāpiti’s iwi as plans to reconfigure Maori representation take shape. Te Atiawa have formally pulled out of Te Whakaminenga o Kāpiti, yet the mooted replacement, called the ‘Tri Iwi’, is already dismissive of the range of local Maori voices as old dominance of smaller hapu dies hard. It is being organised at haste, before the outcome of the Tribunal decision.

In my opinion, KCDC should not try to pre-empt the decision of the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal. It is an arrogant stance and there are many here who have waited many years to be heard. They want their chance to see their own aspirations for autonomy and a voice in shaping their own economic stability. Is the current 21 year old model still relevant Maori representation? Many councils are using Maori wards or Maori seats, perhaps it is also time for this discussion in Kāpiti.