The report looked at the origins of Te Urewera National Park and outlined the uncomfortable history linked to the park built on broken promises. In 1896 the Crown passed special legislation, the Urewera District Native Reserve Act to establish a self-governing native reserve for Tūhoe, however the Crown failed to deliver on it’s promises.
Minister for Treaty Settlements Chris Finlayson acknowledged “ Dick Seddon went over to Lake Waikaremoana, a settlement was plotted out and then the Crown breached it”.
The Tribunal found that the alienation of 75 percent of Urewera native land occurred mainly through ruthless Crown purchasing which was also in breach of the Treaty.
For the people of Te Urewera especially Tūhoe the national park has become a prime symbol of dispossession. The Tribunal says “As a nation we must be ashamed by these events “
Meanwhile as debate begins to flare in response to the report’s findings life goes on in Te Urewera where Pā Teka of Te Wharekura o Huiarau takes his class in what they call one of the most important learning grounds for Tūhoe, the forest of Te Urewera.
Pā Teka says “we take our children into the bush where we teach them about the trees and life in here”. He says this is an education that can only be passed down through generations, “Ruatahuna is the nest of Tūhoe and its evident the hills and forest are everywhere it’s our lifes blood".
This is a view shared by most Tūhoe which is why many agree with the Tribunals findings acknowledging the long lasting grievances dating back to the creation of the reserve act.
In initial agreements with the Crown Te Urewera Park was designed to enclose significant self governing Tūhoe communities. However as the years passed the Crowns illegal purchasing campaigns targeting individuals living in poverty which led to the loss of land, today only 20% remains as Maori owned land.
The Tribunal’s findings vindicate the claimants long held grievances over the loss of their ancestral lands and the defeat of their aspirations for self- governance. Many in Tūhoe are happy that these facts have been released for the nation to see. The hope now is that just like the Kahikatea in the forest Tūhoe will stand tall and determine its own future.