Ngāti Mutunga is one of eight generally recognised iwi of Taranaki. Mutunga is acknowledged by Ngāti Mutunga as the paramount and principal identifying ancestor from which ngā uri o ngā tūpuna o Ngāti Mutunga can trace descent. Ngāti Mutunga is located in northern Taranaki and has approximately 1300 members.
The history of the interaction between Ngāti Mutunga and the Crown has been detailed in the Waitangi Tribunal’s Taranaki Report, published in 1996. The claims of Ngāti Mutunga relate in general terms to breaches by the Crown of its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and in particular the waging of war resulting in loss of life, the confiscation of all Ngāti Mutunga’s land, and other land dealings.
An account of the historical background agreed between the Crown and Ngāti Mutunga is included in the Deed of Settlement, along with acknowledgements of Crown breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and a Crown Apology for those breaches.
Negotiations on a settlement package began in July 1997. On 24 September 1999, the Crown and Ngāti Mutunga signed a Heads of Agreement. The Crown and the mandated iwi representatives initialled a draft Deed of Settlement on 14 December 2004, which was then ratified by members of Ngāti Mutunga through a postal ballot, and signed on 31 July 2005. Ngāti Mutunga has also ratified a governance entity to receive and manage the settlement redress. The Deed of Settlement will be implemented following the passage of settlement legislation.
Ngāti Mutunga was represented in negotiations for their claims by the Ngāti Mutunga Iwi Authority Board. The Board is chaired by Jamie Tuuta, and day to day negotiations were managed by the Chief Negotiator, Dion Tuuta. The Office of Treaty Settlements, with the support of the Department of Conservation, Treasury and other government agencies, represented the Crown in day-to-day negotiations. The Hon Margaret Wilson, who was Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations at the time, represented the Crown in high-level negotiations with Ngāti Mutunga.
Summary of the historical background to the claims of Ngāti Mutunga
From the late 1840s, as pressure mounted to accommodate settlers on land, opposition from Taranaki Māori to land sales north and south of New Plymouth became more evident. Despite this, the Crown continued to attempt to purchase land. In 1860, the Crown deemed resistance by Māori to the survey of the Pekapeka block at Waitara to be an act of rebellion, and waged war in north Taranaki. Many members of Ngāti Mutunga entered the war on the side of the non-sellers. During the course of the hostilities, which continued in North Taranaki until 1865, the Crown established military redoubts on Ngāti Mutunga pā sites at Urenui and Wai-iti, despite the fact that little fighting actually took place around these areas.
In 1865 the Crown declared three confiscation districts in Taranaki under the New Zealand Settlements Act of 1863. The entire rohe (territory) of Ngāti Mutunga was confiscated. The confiscation was indiscriminate in extent and application, with land being taken from “rebels” and “loyals” alike. The promise to restore land immediately to those who were prepared to submit to the Crown’s authority was not fulfilled.
The compensation process provided for in the confiscation legislation was inadequate and ignored customary forms of land tenure. None of the compensation awards made by the Compensation Court in the mid 1860s had been implemented by 1880. This situation created distress, uncertainty and confusion for Ngāti Mutunga, including those people who returned from the Chatham Islands in 1868, as to where they would live and whether they had security of title.
In the 1860s, a movement for Māori peace and independence was established at Parihaka in central Taranaki. Ngāti Mutunga people supported the acts of passive resistance organised by the prophets Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi in the late 1870s in response to the confiscation and lack of reserves. Passive resistance campaigns led to the arrest and imprisonment of more than 600 “ploughers” and “fencers” from throughout Taranaki. Many prisoners, including members of Ngāti Mutunga, were held in the South Island. Conditions were harsh and included hard labour.
In 1881, more than 1,500 Crown soldiers invaded Parihaka. Some 1,600 men, women and children were forcibly expelled from the settlement. Crops were burned, stock were driven away or killed and homes were destroyed.
The West Coast Commissions finalised the return of limited land to Māori of Taranaki in the mid-1880s. Awards of land were returned to individual Māori, not Ngāti Mutunga as an iwi. The West Coast Reserves were placed under the control of the Public Trustee. Many of these reserves were farmed by settlers under perpetually renewable leases or sold by the Trustee. Title amalgamation in 1963 meant beneficial owners no longer had specific interests in customary land but in all West Coast Reserves throughout Taranaki.
The investigation of the confiscation by the Sim Commission in 1926-27 was limited. The Commission recommended an annuity of £5,000 to compensate all of the iwi of Taranaki for the confiscations and a single payment of £300 for the loss of property at Parihaka. The government of the day did not discuss these payments with iwi, nor did iwi accept them as adequate. The sums due in the early 1930s were not fully paid.
The Taranaki Maori Claims Settlement Act 1944 stated that the sums were a full settlement relating to the confiscations and Parihaka. There is no evidence that Ngāti Mutunga or other iwi agreed to this and the sums were not inflation adjusted.