European pressure to acquire land for settlement has led to the Whāngārei coast tribes losing much of their lands. After the Hauraki, Waikato and Taranaki regions, Māori own less freehold land per head in the Auckland region than anywhere in New Zealand.
By 1860 some 42% of all tribal land had been lost. A further 1.6 million acres (about 650,000 hectares) was acquired by 1865, and by 1890 only 25% of all land remained in Māori ownership. There were further losses in the 20th century, so that by 1939 only 5% was in Māori hands – under 10 acres (4 hectares) per head. The economy of the coastal tribes was further disrupted as the government seized control of offshore fisheries and took land for nature reserves on Great Barrier and Little Barrier islands, the Hen and Chickens Islands, and the Poor Knights Islands.
Ngātiwai Trust Board
In the early 2000s the coastal tribes of the Whāngārei area, often under the umbrella of the Ngātiwai Trust Board, submitted a number of claims to the Waitangi Tribunal. They were also at the forefront of many issues regarding the environment, including the taking of sand from Pākiri Beach, the destruction of kiore (rats) on Hauturu Island, and the preservation of important cultural heritage sites.
On 21 May 2011 Ngāti Manuhiri settled its historic treaty claims. The $9 million settlement included the vesting in Ngāti Manuhiri of Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island Nature Reserve. The whole of the island was then gifted back to the people of New Zealand, with the exception of 1.2 hectare site for buildings.
In 2016 Ngātiwai and other Whangarei tribes were continuing to negotiate over their treaty claims.