Tuhoe leaders have embraced the Waitangi Tribunal's final part of its report into Treaty claims made by people from Te Urewera, saying the findings were consistent with the iwi's $170 million Treaty settlement.
The findings, which were released today, deal with Treaty claims in respect of Lake Waikaremoana lodged by Tuhoe, Ngati Ruapani, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngai Tamaterangi and others.
In a four-page letter to Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, tribunal presiding officer Patrick Savage said the tribunal had found seven Treaty breaches arising from the Crown-Maori contest over Lake Waikaremoana, resulting in prejudice to Maori.
Savage said Lake Waikaremoana was a taonga [treasure] of immense importance to Maori who had exercised full authority over it at the time of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
"Today, they are still its owners and its kaitiaki [guardian], but their authority is a pale shadow of what it once was," he said.
Included in the tribunal's findings were the Crown failed to provide for legal recognition of Maori people's relationship with their taonga; the Crown breached the Treaty when it permanently lowered the lake without consulting the kaitiaki or compensating them; and the Crown failed to give effect to the Treaty principles of partnership in its management of the lake during its lease to the Crown for the national park.
"As a result, they [kaitiaki] have been unable to prevent such prejudicial effects as the pumping of untreated or partially treated sewage into their taonga," Savage said.
Earlier this year a Treaty of Waitangi settlement was signed between Tuhoe and the Crown, resulting in redress worth $170m.
The Crown also delivered a long-awaited apology to Tuhoe for historic grievances dubbed among the worst in New Zealand's history.
The Crown's misdeeds included land confiscations, indiscriminate killings and scorched-earth warfare.
Tuhoe - Te Uru Taumatua Trust chair Tamati Kruger said the report's final chapter brought to an end an eight-year wait to learn the tribunal's complete findings.
The report's final chapter was consistent with Tuhoe's treaty settlement and would hopefully inform the public's understanding of the history of the area, Kruger said.
"The analysis of the whole history is superb and the report is consistent with the others in finding the Crown did breach its Treaty obligations," he said.
"There is nothing in this chapter that says Tuhoe sold themselves short in terms of their settlement. It says that the negotiations between Tuhoe and the Crown were right and the best we could do in the circumstances. This chapter and others is a revelation to New Zealanders around our history."
Kruger said the tribunal findings showed the Crown had used the lake without consent and without paying for it and had assumed ownership over it for decades.
"The modern issue this chapter calls to is how will the Government react to the findings as the major shareholder of Genesis [Energy] which owns the hydroelectric schemes on Lake Waikaremoana. The report is saying 'hey you need to pay for all the easements for using the lake bed for your dams."'
Kruger said such talks between Tuhoe and the Government needed to start soon as Genesis' lake lease was due in 2015/16.