3 February 2011 was in effect like any other day, there were no ceremonies, no speeches, no great gathering, but this was the day that the Treaty settlement assets valued at around $26 million were finally transferred to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa, effectively bringing to a close work that formally commenced in 1991 when the first Ngāti Apa Treaty claim was lodged in the Waitangi Tribunal.
It may be said that, based on this continuous process of preparation, negotiation and settlement since 1991, the settlement process took 20 years to complete. Ironically, it was during the process of research and preparation that our people learnt that 200 of our ancestors had met with the New Zealand Premiere, Richard Seddon, in Turakina in 1899, seeking protection for what was left of our lands and redress for what had been lost in terms of fisheries and mahinga kai. This was an incredible finding, as it showed that the process of raising issues with the Crown and seeking redress commenced well over 100 years ago. In this light, efforts in more recent times represent only a continuation of the process to assert rights and seek redress. Our hearts must go out to our tupuna who sought relief all those years ago.

The fact that the official quantum for the Ngāti Apa settlement was $15.2m, but that the settlement is valued at around $26m is testament to the strength of the negotiations team to find value outside the parameters of the Crown's fiscal quantum. This was an excellent achievement that deserves acknowledgement. Negotiators were appointed based on a mixture of their abilities and experiences, and also because each negotiator was in touch with the aspirations of their particular hapū collective, ensuring that all hapū were effectively represented at table with the Crown. The team that negotiated the settlement for the majority of this process was headed by Tokorangi Kapea and included Toroa Pohatu, Adrian Rurawhe and Pahia Turia.

This team worked together to achieve a settlement that now represents a start for collective development for those whānau, hapū and Iwi of Ngā Wairiki and Rangitīkei, whose ancestors formed the modern Iwi of Ngāti Apa. Settlement included:

  • Settlement Cash of $4.1 million plus interest from the time that Ngāti Apa signed the Agreement in Principle.
  • Cultural revitalisation funds of $1.0 million.
  • 6,500 hectares of land under the Santoft, Lismore Sands (Harakeke) and Lismore Hill forests, valued at $10.1million.
  • Accumulated forestry right rentals of around $6.0 million.
  • Rights to purchase certain properties in the Ngāti Apa rohe.
  • First right of refusal on the Ohakea Air Base should this be sold by the Government within the next 50 years.
  • Properties requested by the Hapū groups including papakāinga sites.

Reflecting on the past 20 years from the lodging of the Treaty Claim through to the transfer of the assets, it is useful to provide a chronology of key events and milestones:

  • 1991; George Matthews lodged the Ngāti Apa claim before the Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa. This claim was given the number Wai 265.
  • 1996; Ngahina Matthews lodged the Ngā Wairiki claim which was given the number Wai 655.
  • 1999; Chris Shenton replaced George Matthews as the named claimant for Wai 265.
  • 2003; Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa sought a mandate to settle Treaty of Waitangi Claims (Wai numbers 265 and 655).
  • 2004; The Crown advertised the Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa mandate and asked for submissions. 167 submissions were received by the Crown. Of these, 165 submissions supported Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa and 2 were opposed. Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa signed a Deed of Mandate with the Crown in November 2004 marking the commencement of negotiations.
  • 2005; On 25 July 2005, Terms of Negotiations were signed between Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa and the Crown marking an important milestone in negotiations.
  • 2007; An Agreement in Principle was signed on25 July 2007.
  • 2008; A Deed of Settlement was initialled on 3 September 2008. The Settlement was then subject to a ratification process and was finalised and fully signed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa and the Crown on 8 October 2008.

As a result of the Deed of Settlement being initialed, Wai 655, who were later joined by the Whanganui Southern Cluster, submitted an application to the Waitangi Tribunal for an urgent hearing to hear their concerns regarding the Ngāti Apa negotiations.

2009; In May 2009, Judge Milroy heard applications for urgency filed by Wai 655 claimants and the Whanganui Southern Cluster. This application for an urgent hui was refused. In July the Waitangi Tribunal issued findings based on evidence they had heard in the Whanganui inquiry regarding Ngā Wairiki. At the end of July, the Ngāti Apa Settlement Bill was introduced to parliament.

On 3 August, the Wai 655 claimants and Whanganui Southern Cluster applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the Tribunals refusal to grant an urgent hearing. This hearing took place on 28 September 2009 and a Judgement by J Mackenzie was issued. This judgement was highly critical of Judge Milroy's decision and required the Waitangi Tribunal to reconsider the Wai 655 and the Whanganui Southern Cluster application for an urgent hearing. Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa were not joined to this legal action.

On 11 November 2009, the Court of Appeal heard an appeal of the High Court decision by J Mackenzie which was lodged by the Crown, who were then joined by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa.

On 17 November 2009, the Ngāti Apa Settlement Bill had its first reading in Parliament and was referred to select committee.

On 9 December 2009, the Waitangi Tribunal once again heard applications for an urgent hearing from Wai 655 and the Whanganui Southern Cluster. The panel that heard the application was made up of Judge Savage, supported by Sir Hirini Moko Mead and Ms Morris. This panel once again declined the application for urgency with an emphatic decision.

On the 22nd December 2009, the Court of Appeal issued findings that overturned J Mackenzie's decision in the High Court, and fully endorsed the decision of the Waitangi Tribunal in refusing to grant urgency to Wai 655 and the Whanganui Southern Cluster.

On 9 December 2010, the Ngāti Apa Claims Settlement Bill is read a third and final time in Parliament.

On 15 December 2010, the Ngāti Apa Claims Settlement Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes and Act of Parliament.

3 February 2011, Settlement Assets are transferred to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa.

11 March 2011, the official Crown Apology was delivered to Ngāti Apa members by Hon. Chris Finlayson at Parliament.

14 May 2011, activities, performances and a hakari were held at Kauangaroa Marae to celebrate the completion of the Settlement process.

This chronology of events tells two stories. One story is about the timeframes for the achievement of the key milestones for Treaty settlement and the tremendous effort and achievements of our negotiators and the Rūnanga.

The second story is about the opposition from the Wai 655 Claimants and the Whanganui Southern Cluster, who tried desperately to prevent this settlement from going through, but who only succeeded in slowing the process down, which had inherent opportunity costs for our people, as well as the emotional and financial cost of responding to these challenges and ultimately seeing them off.

From the Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa perspective, these groups mounted an aggressive and unprincipled attack on Ngāti Apa with no holds barred in terms of manipulating history and identities to mislead the Government. Common sense prevailed and the settlement was allowed to proceed, and now these events are consigned to the past. However, this story is documented for perpetuity, as it serves as a cautionary reminder as Ngāti Apa moves forward into the future.