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Maori Land Issues


It^s a known fact that land issues have always been a major topic
within Maori and Pakeha race relations in New Zealand.

The disputes go back to the 1800 when the Treaty of Waitangi
was signed in 1840. According to the second article of the
Treaty, land could only be sold to the Crown if the owners
wished to sell them. Disputes over the government^s attempts
to buy more land at very cheap prices that were below the value
of the land was one of the many reasons that led to the New Zealand
Wars in the 185os and 1860s. As a result of the wars, under the New
Zealand Settlement Act in 1863, 800,000 hectares of Maori land was
confiscated by the government as a punishment for those tribes who
opposed the government. Bitterness over the land the Maori people lost
and sorrow over the people who lost their lives made an ugly scar in
the history of race relations in Aotearoa.

With the Native Lands Act in 1862 individual purchase of Maori
land was allowed. Although the confiscations caused bitterness
and resentment among those affected tribes, the work of The
Native Land Court led to far more land being lost, and this
affected all tribes. The Native Land Court was set up in 1865
with the intention of getting rid of the communal ownerships of
Maori land which was called individualisation so it could be
sold more easily. The Court had the intended effect: land sales
continues at an increasing rate. By 1911 only 10% of New
Zealand^s 66 million acres remained in Maori hands. In 1900
James Carroll, the first Maori Minister of Native Affairs,
passed a notable piece of legislation: a Maori Land
Administration Act which set up a Council which was based on
Carroll^s ^taihoa^ (wait and see) delaying policies. In the Council,
Maori owners were in majority, to administer the lease of Maori land.
The Council leased but sold very little land and this caused settler
discontent and in 1905, the Council were replaced by a European
dominated Boards. By the end of the Liberal^s time in office in 1912,
a further 3 million acres of Maori land had been sold.
Also Sir Apirana Ngata worked with James Carrolls on the Maori
Councils Act in 1900. After the Act failed to help Maori
people, Ngata decided that the best way he could change laws
and policies that affected Maori was through parliament. In
1905 he won the seat for Eastern Maori. As an MP Ngata could
being to put his ideas into practice. In 1907 he and Sir Robert
Stout headed a commission called the Stout-Ngata Commission
looking at Maori land. The commission recommended blocks of
Maori land to be set aside and Maoris to be given financial
help to develop their communals. This was included in the 1909
Native Land Act. Consequently the Act did not stop the
government acquiring more Maori land. The Liberal Government
purchased over 3 million acres by 1911 and the Reform
Government purchased 2.3 million acres between 1912-20. Even
though the government as a whole did little about Maori land
and development, individuals such as Ngata tried their best to
encourage and develop of Maori land. His land Consolidation
schemes were to exchanged scattered pieces of land to form
economic farms run as single units so therefore owners would be
eligible for loans. Also, he undertook another land scheme called
Incorporation where communally owned land could be farmed by a manager
and owners were share holders.
As leaders such as Ngata set examples more was done about Maori
land by the government. In 1926 the Royal Commission of
Confiscated Land was establish to deal with the Maori
grievances resulting from the confiscation of land in the
Waikato, Taranaki and Bay of Plenty. In 1928 the commission
reported that the government pay compensation to the tribes
that lost a lot of land in an unjust manner. Negotiations were
carried out till the 1940s where finally in 1946 the Labour
Government settled the matter. In 1928 Sri Apirana Ngata was
elected as the Native Minister and he introduced his land
development schemes that he undertook in Ngati Porou, which was
his own tribe, to other tribes. Local leaders such as Te Puea
Herangi of Waikato, Taiparutu Mitchelle and Te Arawa were
encouraged to develop farms according to his model. By 23,000 hectares
were under development and 218,000 Maori people gained a living out of
the land. The governments that came into power through the years were
often unwilling to provide the funds for Maori land development so as
Native Minister, Ngata made sure that Government funds were available
through the Native Land Amendment Act in 1930. As a result of this act
the $13,000 spent on Maori land development in 1929 went up to a
$250,000 by 1932.
But in 1952 the National Government increased its power over
Maori land even further with the Public Works Act. The Act was
used to remove tangata whenua (the people of the land) from the
Orakei marae in Auckland. The marae was turned into sports
fields and the tangata whenua were rehoused nearby. In 1953
through the Maori Affairs Act, the government allowed minority owners
to sell against the wishes of the majority. They allowed the sales to
continue with the Maori Affairs Amendment Act in 1967. This Act also
allowed compulsory purchase of small, uneconomical blocks of land. The
stated aim of the Act was to bring about an end to the fragmentation of
land, improve land titles and improve land use. The Act was
unanimously opposed by the Maori groups because to them it felt like
another way the government could get their land. As historian Sir
Keith Sinclair referred to it, it was the ^last Act of the Land Wars^
The Government^s respond to the oppositions was that they will
encourage commercial development of Maori land.
In the 1970s land became a focal point of interest again.
Regaining and retaining Maori land was seen as essential for
the preservation of Maori culture. There was a widespread
feeling among young urban Maori that institutions such as the
New Zealand Maori Council and the Maori Women^s Welfare League
were not ddressing land issues seriously enough. On 14
September 1975 the Maori Land March organised by Te Roopua o Te
Matakite - those with foresight, which was founded by Dame
Whina Cooper was the biggest protest programme that had ever
been undertaken to show the displeasure of the people against
further sale of Maori land. The March started from Te Hapua in the far
north to the Parliament in Wellington. A petition was signed both by
Maori and Pakeha to Parliament claiming the end of all Maori land sales
and repeal of legislation that allowed the government to seize Maori
land. But their efforts were washed away for neither Labour Prime
Minister Bill Rowling or National^s leader Robert Muldoon, give firm
During this time Eva Rickard carried out a campaign which was
to last for over 30 years, to have Tainuii Awhiro^s lands
returned. The Tainui Awhiro lands were seized by the
government to use as an emergency airfield during World War II
and the Tainui Awhiro were told that the airfield was only a
temporary measure. At the conclusion of the war however the
the Taihui Awhiro lands at Raglan were not returned. Instead
they were places under the control of the Raglan County Council
who leased the area to the local golf club. Eva petitioned the
Raglan County Council, the Raglan Golf Club and the Minister of
Maori Affairs. She also joined the Maori Land March in 1975.
After the March the Matakite who opposed Whina Cooper^s
peaceful approach to the subject of land, took up the cause to
have the land at Raglan returned. To gain public attention
over the issue Rickard, on 12 February 1978, led over 150
people to occupy the golf course. The authorities acted
quickly: 17 proteste! rs, including Rickard were arrested and
charged with trespass. The issue became one of national importance.
Eventually, under pressure from both Maori and Pakeha, the land
reverted to the Tainui Awhioro people in September 1979.
Also during the 1970s and 1980s Bastion Point, part of the
Orakei reserve that was set aside for the tangata whenua of
Auckland - the Ngati Whatua. They became a symbol of Maori
land struggles. The Ngati Whatua went through a great deal of
trouble such as many arrests and protests to get the land back
from the government. Through the Waitangi Tribunal which was set up in
1975 under the Treaty of Waitangi Act the Kirk government set up, to
investigate Maori grievances relating to the Treaty, the land at
Bastion Point was returned to Ngati Whatua in 1987.
The Treaty of Waitangi and Waitangi Day have become a focal
point of protest over Maori land, and the Waitangi Tribunal has
become a focus of attempts by Government to settle land claims
by Maori.


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