The Waitangi Tribunal has identified a series of treaty breaches in the way the Crown fought for decades with hapu and individuals over ownership of Lake Waikaremoana.
In the fifth part of its report on Te Urewera claims released this morning, the tribunal says the first breach was that the Crown did not provide a title that recognised collective tribal interests in the lake, including Ngati Ruapani, Nga Rauru o Nga Potiki, and Ngai Tamaterangi.
When the Native Land Court finally drew up a list of owners in 1918, the Crown lodged an appeal and then did nothing about it for 25 years.
When the Maori Appellate Court found against the Crown in 1944, it continued to deny Maori ownership for another decade, preventing the Maori Land Court from issuing titles.
A lease was finally signed in 1971, but it was only backdated to when negotiations stated in 1967.
The tribunal says the owners should have been paid for use of the lake for hydro-electricity, but this was deliberately excluded.
The report will be keenly studied to see what light it casts on other claims over Maori claims to water, particularly where lakes or rivers are used by mixed ownership model power companies.