Te Tai – Treaty Settlement Stories

"When we learn from our past, we can shape our future."

Explore Iwi stories

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What are Treaty Settlements?

What are Treaty settlements and why are they needed?

The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi was meant to be a partnership between Māori and the British Crown. Māori were promised possession of their lands, forests and fisheries for as long as they wished. Governments breached (broke the terms of the treaty) almost from the time it was signed. Iwi lost many resources through:

  • The government buying Māori land for low prices, leaving Māori with inadequate land reserves
  • Confiscation of land, especially following the New Zealand Wars
  • The actions of the Native Land Court, which undermined Maori tribal organisation and made it easier for Māori land to be sold to settlers.

Māori have sought redress for these and other breaches. The Crown’s acknowledgement of, and provision of compensation for, such breaches underpins the Treaty of Waitangi claims settlement process.

Treaty settlements make reference to the Crown and not just the New Zealand government because it was with the Crown that Māori signed the treaty. New Zealand governments conduct negotiations on behalf of the Crown, which in 1840 meant the British state and today signifies the realm within which Queen Elizabeth II reigns as Queen of New Zealand.

The Waitangi Tribunal and negotiations

In the years following the Second World War there was growing awareness of the negative impact of colonisation on Māori. During the 1960s Māori protest movements emerged. In the 1970s, protests about the loss of land and culture and other breaches of the treaty intensified.

The Waitangi Tribunal was set up in 1975 to hear Māori claims regarding contemporary Crown breaches of the treaty. In 1985 the powers of the tribunal were extended to hearing claims relating to events as far back as 1840.

In 1989 a Treaty of Waitangi unit was set up in the Department of Justice to advise the government on treaty policy. The Crown accepted that it had ‘a responsibility to provide a process for the resolution of grievances arising from the Treaty’. Negotiations began with claimants on their historical claims.

Māori can submit a claim individually, as single iwi, or as a group of iwi or hapū. If the claim meets the standards set by the tribunal, it claim is registered. Legal aid is available for claimants appearing before the Waitangi Tribunal.

The settlement process

To settle breaches of the treaty with Māori, the Crown has tried to:

  • identify treaty breaches and those affected by them
  • find their spokespeople
  • negotiate a deed of settlement (a legal document) outlining the settlement, often including land, money, some form of cultural redress such as the restoration of Māori place names – for example, Aoraki/Mt Cook – and a formal apology on behalf of the Crown.

As of August 2018, 73 settlements had been passed into law. The total value of all finalised settlements is $2.24 billion. This may seem like a lot of money, but in the next 12 months, the Government will spend $14 billion on national superannuation alone. The entire value of Treaty settlements over the past quarter of a century would cover superannuation payments for two months.

The Waitangi Tribunal, in its Report on the Crown’s Foreshore and Seabed Policy, found:

‘Where the Crown has acted in breach of the principles of the Treaty, and Māori have suffered prejudice as a result, we consider that the Crown has a clear duty to set matters right. This is the principle of redress, where the Crown is required to act so as to ‘restore the honour and integrity of the Crown and the mana and status of Māori’.

Further information

Find out more about the Treaty of Waitangi and Waitangi Day on NZHistory

Read more about Ngā whakataunga tiriti – Treaty of Waitangi settlement process on Te Ara

About the project

Treaty of Waitangi settlements are unique to Aotearoa New Zealand and are leading to significant changes in communities throughout the country.

Treaty settlements are vital in shaping our identity as a nation and central to the making of modern Aotearoa New Zealand.

Treaty settlements have been a watershed in New Zealand’s history and there is a need to collect, preserve and share Treaty settlement stories while those who were involved are still with us.

Manatū Taonga: Ministry for Culture and Heritage has embarked on a national project aimed at increasing awareness and deepening understanding of Treaty settlements and their impact. Te Taiwhakaea Treaty Settlement Stories (Te Tai) will be a rich and comprehensive source of new information and provide a platform for expressing the diverse range of these significant events.

Te Tai will connect the people of Aotearoa New Zealand with Treaty settlement stories. A wealth of information will be produced to share this history, including research articles, immersive web stories, full-feature documentaries, oral history interviews and a range of educational materials in both Māori and English.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Te Tai acknowledges that the Treaty of Waitangi sits at the heart of this project. This founding document continues to shape discussions, ideas and opinions about Treaty settlements, and most importantly, New Zealanders’ understanding of our distinctive history.

It is hoped that Te Tai will contribute to raising public appreciation and understanding of Treaty settlements today and their importance in our communities tomorrow.

Education programme

Te Tai offers a collection of cross-curricular education resources for both students and teachers in Māori medium and English medium. The resources align with The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga of Aotearoa.

These can currently be found on the School Kit website. They will at a later point be transferred to the Te Tai website.

Te Tai delivers an education programme to a variety of schools across the country. Map of Stories provides an approach to Treaty of Waitangi education that uses place-based inquiry that enables participating schools to connect with and explore their local history in the broader context of Treaty settlements.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Orīni ki Ngāti Awa share their learning experience in this video clip.

To share in the learning discoveries and experiences of other schools visit Te Tai Map of Stories - Classwork.

Te Tai Whakaea

The uplifting tide

The name chosen for this project reflected the close connection that New Zealanders have with the land and sea, and also expressed the fact that Treaty of Waitangi claims and settlements have created opportunities to both acknowledge our history and contemplate the landscape of our future. The name has now been shortened to Te Tai.

Te Tai will:

  • Provide an overarching history of Treaty of Waitangi settlements for current and future generations.
  • Explore how Treaty settlements are shaping our national identity and aspirations.
  • Inform people about Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique approach to settling historic grievances.
  • Provide a platform for iwi to share their histories and their Treaty settlement stories.
  • Tell the stories of those who have played key roles in Treaty settlements.
  • Stimulate informed conversations about the Treaty of Waitangi and Treaty settlements.

Manatū Taonga acknowledges the support of:

Te Tāhuhu o te Matauranga: Ministry for Education

Tāhū o te Ture: Ministry of Justice

Te Puni Kōkiri

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori

English