Ngāpuhi did not cede sovereignty
The commissioners of a ground-breaking independent report on the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi say the report will shatter forever the myths surrounding the treaty.
It is the first time such a report has been commissioned and published to stand alongside a Waitangi Tribunal report based on the same evidence.
The report was commissioned by Titewhai Harawira and Nuki Aldridge on behalf of the Kuia and Kaumātua of Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu. It contains several recommendations made by the panel to address its findings.
The evidence was given over five weeks at the initial Ngāpuhi claim hearings in 2010 and 2011. Particularly significant were the statements by the Ngāpuhi speakers on the meaning and intentions of He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nū Tīreni 1835, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi 1840.
The report makes clear that Ngāpuhi did not sign away their sovereignty to the British Crown. It is also clear from the evidence presented in the report that Ngāpuhi did not cede governance to the Crown either. It says the evidence shows the rangatira wanted the Crown to provide a Governor who would take charge of its unruly British subjects living here.
From 2006, Kuia and Kaumātua had voiced concerns about the independence of the Waitangi Tribunal process, but the Government had not responded to requests for an international forum to hear evidence on the two founding documents.
They had then decided to commission an independent report on the hearings. Limited funds had meant that an international observer was not an option, so expertise was sought within New Zealand.
Three panel members were chosen to write the report. They are Susan Healy, Ingrid Huygens, and Takawai Murphy. With the addition of a kaitiaki from the north, Hōri Parata, the group consisted of two Māori and two Pākeha.
Mrs Harawira said, “The declaration and the treaty were the result of the friendship that Ngāpuhi rangatira had with British royalty that began in 1820 with the visit by Hongi Hika and Waikato. Ngāpuhi had a dialogue that started with King George, and continued with King William and Queen Victoria. We want to be able to continue that dialogue.”
As a result of the relationship that had been established and that was recognised in He Wakaputanga, a Governor was called for by Te Wakaminenga o Nga Hapu o Nū Tīreni to exert British authority over British subjects living here without regard to either Māori or British law.
“He was to work alongside the rangatira here – never to have authority over them,” she said. “They agreed to allow a governor, appointed by themselves and acting under their authority, to exercise British control over new migrants living in their rohe – nothing more and nothing less."
“We have had to fight a long and arduous battle to raise the profile of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to have the promises made in Te Tiriti redeemed. We have seen the comings and goings of many Prime Ministers – they are now gone, but for us our battle continues. The Ngāpuhi Nation is firm in its belief that our tūpuna did not cede sovereignty.”
Report commissioner Nuki Aldridge said the report was a response to the wishes of Kaumātua for an independent exercise to be undertaken by people chosen by them, just as the Tribunal members are chosen by the Government.
He said however that he expected the Tribunal would reach the same conclusion as the independent observers: that there is only one authentic treaty, which confirms the statements made in He Wakaputanga. “Te Tiriti was intended to foster peaceful prosperity for both cultures and remains so for the future when implemented as intended.”
He said the report would be popular reading among Ngāpuhi and the Crown this summer. It would bring a sharper focus to Waitangi in February because the knowledge shared by those giving evidence was a powerful and unifying force, at a time when it was most needed.
Mr Aldridge also commented on the need for fair process in the hearing of treaty claims: “In a treaty debate, you would think it reasonable that the rules of engagement are promulgated in equity by both parties. But it is inequitable where one party to a treaty makes the rules and has access to wealth to prosecute their evidence, while the other party is directed on how and when the resources are available.”
“The availability or the lack of resources then controls the outcome. The story will be tainted by the rules and regulations that are imposed. The imposed rules and regulations also control the outcome and of course will show bias in favour of the system that has imposed its rules and regulations. This is why Ngāpuhi needed an independent report.”
“Those who fail to assert their rights have none. In this report the voices of Ngāpuhi are heard again asserting our rights, and we expect a decent response,” he said. “When will tāngata whenua get the opportunity to be part of the decision making process?”
(Photograph: John Miller - John Miller (Ngaitewake-ki-te-tuawhenua, Uritaniwha, Ngati Rehia hapu of Ngapuhi) is described as a “sympathetic observer” of anti-war, civil rights, anti-apartheid, anti-nuclear and Maori political protests.)