The Treaty of Waitangi
On 28 April 1840, 61 Muriwhenua chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Kaitāia. Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson assured them that the treaty would control Pākehā settlers and protect Māori lands and interests. Nōpera Pana-kareao encapsulated Māori understanding of the treaty based on these promises, saying, ‘Ko te atarau o te whenua i riro i a te kuini, ko te tinana o te whenua i waiho ki ngā Māori’ (The shadow of the land will go to the Queen [of England], but the substance of the land will remain with us). One year later he reversed his opinion, saying that the substance of the land had gone to the Queen and that Māori retained only the shadow.
Muriwhenua suffered under government policies on Māori land. The government’s investigations into European land purchase claims before the treaty resulted in the loss of about 60,000 hectares. Further government purchases resulted in the alienation of another 113,000 hectares by 1865. By 1890 the government had acquired another 31,000 hectares, so that the Muriwhenua tribes no longer held sufficient lands to maintain their traditional way of life. Some took up kauri gum digging, but it was a short-term boom. The Waitangi Tribunal conclude that ‘with nearly all their usable land gone, Muriwhenua Māori were reduced to penury, powerlessness, and, eventually, state dependence’.
In 2013 there were over 40,000 Muriwhenua Māori in New Zealand. As a result of huge land losses and marginalisation of Māori society, combined with the migration of Māori to the cities since 1950, less than a third of Muriwhenua people (about 12,000) lived in the Northland region in 2013. Many lived outside the tribal area, with almost 18,000 descendants in the Auckland region.
Muriwhenua people have played an important role in Treaty of Waitangi politics since the 1960s. Whina Cooper led the 1975 Māori land march from Te Hāpua to Parliament.
The tribes have also played a pivotal role in claims before the Waitangi Tribunal, lodging multiple claims since 1994. The Muriwhenua fishing report (1988) was instrumental in the 1992 settlement of Māori claims to offshore fisheries. The Muriwhenua land report (1997) documented the history of land loss and its impact on the tribe. Initially, Muriwhenua land claims were to be settled under the confederation of Te Rūnanga-ō-Muriwhenua. However, after several debates within the tribes, it was decided that each tribe would negotiate separately.
Each of the Muriwhenua tribes has negotiated a separate treaty settlement which provides for collective redress where there is shared interest in land and other assets. This collective redress includes 21,000 hectares of Crown forest land on the Aupouri peninsula, creation of Te Oneroa a Tōhē Board to manage Ninety Mile Beach (Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē), establishment of Te Hiku Conservation Board to co-govern conservation land in the region, and rights of first refusal to Crown properties.
The Te Aupōuri Deed of Settlement, signed on 28 January 2012, included financial redress of about $21 million. Nineteen geographic names were altered, with dual Maori–English names for Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē/ Ninety Mile Beach), Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua, Piwhane/Spirits Bay, Wharekāpu/Paxton Point, Ōtaipango/Henderson Bay and Tohoraha/Mount Camel.
Ngāi Takoto ’s settlement, dated 27 October 2012, includes financial redress valued at $21 million. Some of this amount was used to purchase part of the Crown-owned Sweetwater Farm and other properties. Ten sites of significance were vested solely in Ngāi Takoto, and others jointly with other Muriwhenua tribes. Ngāi Takoto received a cultural redress fund of $2.4 million to help it undertake projects of cultural significance.
The total value of the Te Rarawa settlement, dated 28 October 2012, was about $34 million. Te Rarawa also received a cultural redress fund of $530,000 and made an agreement with the Department of Conservation for joint governance and management of the Warawara Forest Park public conservation lands.
Ngāti Kuri’s historic treaty claims were settled on 7 February 2014 at a value of about $25 million. This included purchase of the 3157-hectare Te Paki Station and other properties, and a cultural endowment fund of $2.23 million. Among the sites of significance vested in Ngāti Kuri were Te Rerenga Wairua and Kapowairua at the northernmost point of the country.