Message from the Chairman – Ngā mihi o te wā me te Tau Hau

Tēnā koutou katoa,

What a year it has been for Te Whakatōhea – another challenging year, as we progress towards an enduring settlement for all of Whakatōhea.

On behalf of all our Trustees, we extend a heartfelt mihi to Whakatōhea whānui who stood by the Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust throughout 2018. We know this year has been a testing one, and we remain humbled by your support.

Much of the year has been absorbed by the challenges of the Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry, and the resulting iwi-wide voting process that was recommended.

We were pleased to receive the results vote which showed majority support for this Trust and our continued work to achieve a comprehensive settlement for all our people.  We look forward to the Ministers for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and for Māori Development confirming these results so that we can keep moving forward towards settlement.

We had hoped to have a decision on this before Christmas, but this is now looking more likely to be received in the new year.

We want to take this opportunity to assure you that the Trust will continue in its works for all of Te Whakatōhea and we look forward to moving forward with unity to ensure the aspirations of our tīpuna come to life.

Indeed, our Agreement in Principle holds the promise of much opportunity for Te Whakatōhea: a comprehensive settlement of $100 million, it will help us equip our iwi to assert huge authority and influence over and within our rohe in a practical expression of mana whenua and mana moana, and in social terms help generate jobs to ensure that our people can return home and prosper. You can read more about what the AIP includes here.

Additional to our settlement, we were pleased with the recent announcement of funding from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for the further development of aquaculture opportunities within our rohe.  This is very much aligned with, and will enhance, the outcomes that will be achieved for Whakatōhea through the negotiations with the Crown. The PGF funding includes $935,000 for the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board to prepare a business case to accelerate aquaculture developments in Whakatōhea rohe moana, and $19,850,000 to be invested in the development of a sustainable mussel farming and production facility in Ōpōtiki. You can read more about all the projects receiving support from the PGF in our region here.

This is exciting news and we look forward to seeing our people spearheading this growing industry through our settlement, and providing opportunities for the people of Ōpōtiki.  As Whakatōhea, we work together to grow what we believe are the best mussels in the world. We can go even further in creating opportunities for our iwi, hapū and whānau when we realise the 5000ha of marine space we have negotiated in our settlement for Whakatōhea.

We look forward to 2019, and our big hope is that it will be the year where we can transform our Agreement in Principle into the Deed of Settlement for all our iwi to vote upon. We are also keen to ensure a comprehensive historic account is included in our settlement. We will continue to keep you updated on any developments relating to the Crown decision on the vote, our settlement negotiations, and how you can be involved.

Now, Christmas is almost here, and we, your Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trustees wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We hope you stay safe this festive season, and get to enjoy quality time with whānau. Mā te Atua e manaaki, e arahia, e tiaki hoki i ā tātou katoa i roto i te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou ka heke mai nei.

Nākū noa, nā

Graeme Riesterer
Chairman

Majority of Whakatōhea votes to support Trust and progress Treaty settlement negotiations

Majority of Whakatōhea votes to support Trust and progress Treaty settlement negotiations

The result of the Whakatōhea vote on the future of its Treaty of Waitangi claims has been announced today, with majority support for the Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust (the Trust) and its continued work to achieve a comprehensive settlement for all of Whakatōhea.

A total of 2,726 valid votes were cast on Question 1 with 56.27% (1,534 votes) opting to support the Trust and its work.

The iwi-wide voting process was recommended by the Waitangi Tribunal following its inquiry into the Trust’s mandate to negotiate a Treaty settlement on behalf of Whakatōhea.

Trust Chairman Graeme Riesterer says the trustees are humbled by the support shown from Whakatōhea whānui, and he has acknowledged all who voted.

“On behalf of our team, I want to extend our heartfelt mihi to all those who voted in favour of the Trust and our mahi, and also to those who voted no, as this was an important opportunity for Whakatōhea to have a say. It’s also clear from the results that some hapū members voted in preference of a district inquiry.”

“This vote has tested the pulse of Whakatōhea in an open and transparent process. We have always said it is up to our whānau and hapū to decide what happens next, and now they have done so,” says Mr Riesterer.

All registered Whakatōhea hapū members (8,839 eligible voters) were asked to vote on whether they support the Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust’s mandate, or whether they want Treaty negotiations stopped for a re-mandating process or a full Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry into the historical grievances of the iwi.

The Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Minister for Māori Development will now consider the results before deciding whether or not the Crown will resume negotiations with the Trust or explore other options involving Whakatōhea.

“The Trust is however glad that there was a significant increase in numbers of Whakatōhea having their say on this, and that the majority have spoken out in favour of completing the settlement process,” says Mr Riesterer.

“We will await the decision by the Crown and we look forward to working this through with our iwi. We hope we can soon all move forward with unity and the shared goal of achieving great things for Whakatōhea.”

Full results of the vote can be accessed here.

Voting on the Whakatōhea Settlement process has closed – thank you for your support

Voting on the Whakatōhea Settlement process has closed – thank you for your support

After four weeks of voting and a series of information hui across Te Ika a Maui, voting on the Whakatōhea Settlement process has now closed.

The vote was recommended by the Waitangi Tribunal following its inquiry into the Trust’s mandate to negotiate a Treaty settlement on behalf of Whakatōhea. The Tribunal found that the Crown had breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi by recognising the mandate and recommended that settlement negotiations be paused while Whakatōhea vote on how to proceed. In doing so, the Tribunal recognised the package in the Agreement in Principle (AIP) was worth preserving.

Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust (WPCT) thanks all whānau, iwi and hapū who took part in the vote, and who voted in favour of the Trust continuing negotiations.

“We have said before that this vote was an opportunity to test the pulse of Te Whakatōhea, and we look forward to finding out the outcome of the vote and communicating that in due course,” says Trust Chairman Graeme Riesterer.

“A heartfelt thank you to all those who have supported us through this journey, who continue to support us, and who want to see us move forward so we can achieve a strong future for our tamariki and mokopuna in this lifetime.”

The results will be released by the Independent Returning Officer Electionz.com after all the special votes have been verified. The Trust will communicate the outcome of the vote to you via the WPCT website, email pānui and Facebook as soon as the results are received.

Waitangi Tribunal woes frustrating for Te Whakatōhea

Waitangi Tribunal woes frustrating for Te Whakatōhea

Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust negotiator Maui Hudson says he is deeply frustrated by an admission from the Waitangi Tribunal Chief Judge that the organisation is ‘stretched to the limit’.

Earlier this year the Tribunal recommended Whakatōhea undergo a further voting process with its members to decide whether to proceed with the direct negotiations pathway or stop and pursue a full Waitangi Tribunal inquiry.

Mr Hudson says it is unacceptable for the Waitangi Tribunal to raise claimants’ expectations in the absence of robust information around timelines.

“The Tribunal must have known earlier this year, when they recommended that Whakatōhea goes to another vote, that their capability to press ahead with a full inquiry was severely limited,” he says.

“Our voting process ends today, and the Tribunal should have made this admission at the beginning of our process given it is a material consideration for our people.”

“The impact of the Tribunal’s decision means that it is highly possible that those who vote for a full district inquiry settlement did so on the assumption it would extend our settlement process by a few years rather than decades.”

“If Whakatōhea has to wait another 10-20 years for settlement, we conservatively estimate potential economic losses of at least $80m. When you combine it with the 20-year hiatus since our first offer in 1996, the loss exceeds $200m.”

“It is unacceptable for the Waitangi Tribunal to exacerbate our grievances in this manner and deny our people a chance to build their future.”

The Waitangi Tribunal receives $8m a year to fund its activities, while last year Treaty lawyers extracted $14m from Legal Aid to assist their clients.

Through the Whakatōhea Mandate Inquiry process, lawyers have received more than $1.5m in legal aid. Mr Hudson says this is more than the funding envelope available to the Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust to complete the entire negotiations process.

Whakatōhea settlement process – why vote yes to question 1?

Whakatōhea settlement process – why vote yes to question 1?

The below article appeared in the Opotiki News on Thursday 11 October.

The people of Whakatōhea are being asked to vote this month on whether they support the Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust continuing negotiations towards a Settlement for the iwi, or whether they want treaty negotiations stopped for a re-mandating process, or a full Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry into the historical grievances of the iwi.

With voting now underway, and due to close on 26 October, Maui Hudson, of Ngai Tamahaua, and Negotiator for the Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust, shares his view on why voting yes to continued negotiations by the Trust, is a vote for progress.

“I was interested to see the opinion piece published by Tuariki Delamere on Tuesday where he shared his thoughts on the shortcomings of the negotiations process. His thoughts echo those expressed by a number of claimants who feel a full district inquiry is the best option for Whakatōhea moving forward. What wasn’t covered was any analysis of the significance of the comprehensive offer that sits before Whakatōhea currently.

In 1996, members of Whakatōhea looked at the $40 million being offered by the Crown and said it wasn’t good enough. At that time, they didn’t say no because they want a full district inquiry, and they certainly didn’t say no to wait another 22 years for another opportunity. They said no because the offer, negotiated in the early days of Treaty Settlements, failed to adequately compensate Whakatōhea for the vast confiscations of land, the destruction of property, and the murder of innocent civilians.

It has been both a privilege and responsibility to be involved with this second negotiation process.

We went into it with a deep sense of the importance of this settlement to bring honour and justice to our tupuna, as well as hope and promise to our mokopuna.

We wanted to restore the spirit of optimism for a future of wealth and prosperity that our rangatira had when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi. That’s why a key focus of the negotiations is a focus on the future and how the Crown would assist in the restoration of Whakatōhea’s influence over the land, the seas, and its people. Mana Whenua, Mana Tangata, and Mana Moana became the bottom lines in terms of appropriate redress.

So, what is on the table now and how does that differ from 1996?

In terms of mana whenua, the amount of land being returned (6692ha) is far in excess of what is normally provided and recognises the significant land loss. In addition to the land being returned we will also have a Whakatōhea Chapter within the Bay of Plenty Conservation Management Strategy. This allows us to say what is important to us across the rest of the Department of Conservation estate and how we think it should be managed. Department of Conservation land wasn’t part of the 1996 settlement and this particular combination of redress mechanisms hasn’t appeared in any other settlement.

In terms of mana moana, the allocation of 5000ha of marine space for aquaculture development is a unique component of this settlement package. Given the lack of crown farms or forests within our rohe we had to look out to the ocean for a resource with some commercial potential. It was helpful that Whakatōhea already has interests in the Eastern Seafarm and burgeoning mussel development, but there were a number of hurdles to cross to make this a reality. Marine space was entirely absent in 1996, it wasn’t possible before the Maori Aquaculture Act came into being in 2004, and hadn’t been used in the context of an Iwi settlement. The prospective value of the marine space that has been secured has a potential to dwarf the value of the settlement within the next generation.

In terms of Mana Tangata, here we focus on the different ways we can enrich our people. $15 million has been set aside for specific initiatives including a te reo revitalisation fund, and education endowment fund, a cultural revitalisation fund, a reserve lands development, and a marine and harbour fund. We prioritised a relationship with the Tertiary Education Commission as capacity building is vital to realising the benefits of development. If we train people but can’t create jobs, we just export them to other places. If we create jobs, but our people don’t have the skills we end up importing labour. The balance of the financial redress consisted of $85 million, which combined with the $15m, creates a $100m package, two and a half times larger than the offer in 1996.

Taken as a whole, this is one of the largest and most innovative settlement packages ever developed. This settlement hasn’t just been devised by the Trust and marae and hapū representatives. This settlement reflects the aspirations of people of Whakatōhea who genuinely want a better future for their iwi.

The Trust has been fortunate that a number of people have put their hand up to help. Whakatōhea members offered their expertise through Te Roopu Awhina and the outcome reflects their contributions too. In real terms, the settlement itself will equip our iwi to assert huge authority and influence over and within our rohe in a practical expression of mana whenua, mana tangata and mana moana.

Right now, our whānau have a choice. We are all free to choose but we are not free from the consequences of our choice. The choice we made in 1996 was the right choice because the settlement offer wasn’t a good one, but it left us in limbo for the next 22 years.

We don’t need a full district inquiry to negotiate this offer and a report is unlikely to result in any improvements. When Professor Ranginui Walker stood up at the Te Tarata commemorations and spoke directly to Minister Finlayson and Minister Flavell he didn’t ask for a full district inquiry, he told them it was time to negotiate with Whakatōhea and give them the settlement they deserve.

We have the settlement we deserve on the table right now, and that’s why I encourage all Whakatōhea whānau to vote, vote to re-confirm your faith in the Trust to continue negotiations, so we can finish the work our tupuna started.

No reira te whānau, Whakatōhea maurua.”

Media statement: Trust pleased with Ministerial Investigation findings

Media statement: Trust pleased with Ministerial Investigation findings

The Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust (the Trust) welcomes the findings and recommendations noted in the Ministerial Investigation into the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board (the Trust Board).

Trust Deputy Chair Bruce Pukepuke says the completion of the Ministerial Investigation finally allows the Trust to move forward and carry on with its mahi for all of Whakatōhea.

“The report validates the elections process, confirms the hapū representatives elected by whānau in November 2017, and means Whakatōhea’s tribal register can be used for the upcoming vote on our future settlement process.”

With the withdrawal last week of the High Court challenge lodged by the claimants seeking a judicial review of the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendation, Mr Pukepuke notes that all legal challenges that have been put forward by claimants against The Trust are now complete.

“All of this means it is now up to our iwi, hapū and whānau to decide on the future of this settlement and that’s the way the Trust believes it should be,” says Mr Pukepuke.

“We are really looking forward to having our direction reconfirmed so we can achieve a settlement that will give our tamariki and mokopuna opportunities that others before us did not get to have.”