The Presbyterian Church is concerned by news that the settlement of the Tuhoe tribal claims has stalled at the eleventh hour.
The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has long enjoyed a special relationship with the Tuhoe iwi. This relationship owes much to Presbyterian mission work in the Urewera region in the early 20th century, and in particular to the close friendship forged between Rua Kenana Hepetipa and the Very Rev J G Laughton. Today, the relationship is embodied by, and nurtured through, the work of Te Aka Puaho (the Presbyterian Church’s Maori Synod), which is based in the Bay of Plenty.
Tuhoe history is marked by suffering at the hands of the Crown. Given this troubled history, the past 18 months of negotiations and the emergence of a likely settlement, which included the Urewera National Park being vested in Tuhoe under conditions that would have preserved universal access and universal rights for all New Zealanders, constituted a real sign of hope for both the Tuhoe iwi and our nation.
Tuhoe did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi, and were brutally treated by agents of the Crown in the mid 19th century. After reaching a "cease-fire" with the government of the day, Tuhoe lands were tribally ruled under Te Rohe o Te Urewera as a separate tribal district – the only legally recognised tribal enclave in the country – until 1922.
On 15 October 2007, armed police conducted a series of raids around the country under the aegis of the Terrorism Suppression Act to apprehend an alleged terrorist network. The biggest raid focused on the small settlement of Ruātoki in the Urewera, home to the Tuhoe iwi. The raids evoked bitter memories of Maungapohatu (a peaceful religious settlement) being raided by police in 1916. Rua Kenana was arrested on charges of sedition; his son and one of his followers were killed.
The Presbyterian Church urges the resumption of settlement negotiations and encourages all parties to the negotiations to keep before them the goals of justice and reconciliation.
The Right Rev Dr Graham Redding
Moderator of the General Assembly
Graham is based in Dunedin
Mrs Millie Te Kaawa
Moderator of Te Aka Puaho (the Maori Synod)
Millie is based in Whakatane
(04) 381-8285 or 027 5353-020