Last week I wrote in full support of the recently agreed Te Atiawa settlement with the Crown – writing based on the belief that the land at the heart of our claim – the Pekapeka block in Waitara – would be returned to our iwi. That is why yesterday’s initialing of the Deed of Settlement in Wellington should have been a joyous occasion for our iwi. Yet, in a few short hours that sense of relief that the long road to settlement was finally over was replaced by a bitter sense of disappointment and disillusionment with our leaders. In all their infinite wisdom they had elected not to take up the Crown, and New Plymouth District Council’s offer of including the Pekapeka lands in the final settlement.
It is beyond comprehension. The taking of this land led to the outbreak of the Land Wars, and forced Te Atiawa into a nomadic existence for decades. The chance to finally regain control of a part of our ancestral land at Waitara is an opportunity that should have been the bottom line of any settlement discussions – not something to throw out the window when the cash came calling.
Yes, this could all be part of an ingenious strategy to purchase the land from the Council at a reduced rate through private sale but this option is fraught with dangers. Waitara is worth too much to gamble on.
We have been down this path before, 15 years on from our first failed settlement it is likely we will once again fail to come up with a settlement that meets the wishes and needs of Te Atiawa. This time, it is all our own fault.