A Taranaki Perspective


Peter Moeahu former Deputy Chairman, Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation





My story begins with the Taranaki land confiscations of last century which decimated indigenous governance structures of that era.  It centres on two Maori organisations which evolved out of that struggle and their efforts to adapt and cope in today’ s reality.


The first is Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation (PKW).  The second is Te Atiawa Iwi Authority (TAIA).


Following confiscation, the Crown set aside native reserves and returned this land to Maori ownership under individualised land title.  Maori thus became private land owners as opposed to communal land occupiers.


Confiscations and individualised titles left hapu landless. Private ownership versus communal occupation is still a very contentious issue in Taranaki and the subject of ongoing litigation in the Maori Land Court.


From the 1880's to the 1970s control of the Taranaki reserves lay exclusively with the Crown.  Land was perpetually leased to Pakeha farmers at 5% of the unimproved value with rent reviews every 21 years. Even though Maori had land title they were still effectively landless.


In the mid 1970's the landowners finally gained administration rights to their lands, albeit under the same leasing arrangements as before.  Landowners again but still effectively landless.



Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation (PKW)


PKW was incorporated in 1976 and administers 23,000 hectares of prime dairy farmland on behalf of 7,000 shareholders.  Since the 1970'S PKW has developed its assets and in conjunction with other Maori reserve land owners, lobbied for change to the legislation governing their lands.


In 1997 the Maori Reserve Land Amendment Act was passed which paved the way for a move to market rents, rent reviews every 7 years, a sunset clause on perpetual leasing and the promise of compensation  for past rent losses.  We still await the fulfilment of this compensation promise.


In economic terms PKW may be described as moderately successful. It has an annual income of $3.2 million, half of which comes from land rents. The other half from commercial buildings and other diversified interests.


Plans for the future include buying out lessees improvements on PKW land and amalgamating these interests into large scale corporate type dairy farms. At a cost of $250 million it is by necessity a long term plan.


The greatest challenge facing PKW is the resolution of differences between landless hapu and private landowning PKW. This may become possible through joint ventures when hapu receive compensation from confiscated land claim settlements currently being negotiated with the Crown.



Te Atiawa Iwi Authority (TAIA)


This organisation was formed in 1996 to negotiate a settlement with the Crown concerning the confiscated land of Te Atiawa.


From the outset the Crown determined the rules of engagement and decided it would only negotiate an iwi-wide settlement. This single decision has caused more internal strife in Te Atiawa than any other issue in the past hundred years.


Central to the settlement process is the question of who holds the mandate, (the mana of the people) to direct these negotiations.  Hapu say it rests with them.  The iwi authority point to the Crown’s recognition of their organisation and says it rests with them.


It could be said that this is nothing more than petty mana munching and everyone should get on with the job of negotiation for the long term benefit of Te Atiawa.


However, the question of mana lies at the heart of indigenous governance, it is the cornerstone of rangatiratanga and the basis of centuries of Maori development.


On the 24th of July 1999 the largest Te Atiawa hui this century was held in New Plymouth.  A significant number of motions were proposed, spoken to and voted on and it became evident that TAIA did not have the support of those it claimed to represent.


To compound matters further the TAIA executive, in front of the hui, overturned all decisions made by the hui. Despite these obvious governance flaws the Crown continues to negotiate with TAIA prompting opposing litigation in the High Court.





Both PKW and TAIA are products of this countrys’ wayward past. Conceived through rape on the battlefields of Taranaki they are illegitimate offspring from a misfit liaison between Maori and the Crown. As organisation they are neither wholly Maori nor truly Pakeha and therein lies the dilemma.


Both suffer from legislative abuse, policy neglect and constitutional asphyxiation and both find themselves subject to litigation of the stakeholder kind.  That’s the kind where the jokers holding the stakes are trying to litigate them upon the jokers holding the putea.


The irony of all this litigation is that we are using the courts, a non- indigenous governance instrument, to sort out problems caused by the Crown, the non-indigenous governance structure.


We need a better way.