Kōrero tuku iho
http://www.wakatu.org.nz/home/whanau/history/ ( 26 May, 2013 )
Wakatū owners are descendants of the chiefs and families of four tribes – Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama and Te Ātiawa. Our ancestors travelled from Kāwhia and North Taranaki to conquer the region between 1828 and 1834.
We settled and held authority over the Nelson-Motueka-Golden Bay lands at the time of European settlement in 1841. Our iwi were based in the following regions:
- Ngāti Koata - Rangitoto (D'Urville Island), Croisilles and Nelson
- Ngāti Tama - Whakapuaka and Golden Bay
- Ngāti Rārua - Motueka, Golden Bay and Nelson
- Te Ātiawa - Motueka, Golden Bay and Nelson.
Our ancestors had large gardens from which we supplied the whaling industry in Marlborough, which was at its peak in the 1830s. Later we were the main providers of food to Nelson settlers.
In 1839 there were approximately 2,000 immigrants in New Zealand; by 1852 there were 28,000. This was mainly due to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which gave British immigrants citizenship and the right to settle in New Zealand.
Our people generally welcomed European settlement as an opportunity to expand trade. It is unlikely that our ancestors anticipated just how many settlers would pour in and the impact this would have on our way of life.
The New Zealand Company
In London during the early 1840s, the New Zealand Company (NZC) planned for the settlement of a town called Nelson. NZC intended to purchase some 200,000 acres of land from Māori, which it would divide into one thousand lots and sell to intending settlers. Due to its superior harbour, the site which Nelson City now occupies was chosen. However, the cultivatable land surrounding the harbour amounted to only 60,000 acres, less than a third required by NZC’s plans. Nevertheless, NZC continued with the settlement and secured an undetermined area from local Māori for £800. This included Nelson, Waimeha, Motueka, Riuwaka and Whakapuaka.
The NZC agreement included the condition that any land purchased for European settlement for the Nelson, Motueka and Golden Bay settlements would have one-tenth set aside for Māori prosperity plus occupation lands, urupā (burial plots) and waahi tapu (sites of cultural significance).
Although the Tenths Reserves policy was well-founded. The actual reserves set aside were far less than what was agreed. Instead of receiving 15,100 acres of the 151,000 sold within the region by the NZC, only 5,100 was set aside as Tenths Reserves. Furthermore, Māori occupation lands, urupā and waahi tapu were not protected from European settlement. As a result, Māori in the Nelson settlement district were left with insufficient land to live on. It has always been our view that 450,00 acres of land was surveyed for the NZ company and that our reserves should have been 45,000 acres.
The owners were further dispossessed of their land because it was put under the administration of a crown-appointed agent called the Public Trustee, Native Trustee and then the Māori Trustee. This agent allowed Tenths Reserves land to be sold to lessees and taken by the Crown under the Public Works Act for roads and schools. This happened without the knowledge or consent of the owners.
Legislation in the 1880s and 1890s further restricted the value and profitability of the reserve lands by enabling lessees to be able to perpetually renew their leases and undertake rent reviews every 21 years. This meant that different legal rules applied to Māori owners of land who leased that land, compared with other New Zealand land owners.
Return to Māori ownership
In 1974 a Commission of Inquiry (the Sheehan Commission) was set up in response to a national outcry over the sale of Native Reserves to lessees and the loss of more Māori land. As a result, the Māori Trustee’s administration of the tenths reserves was revoked. What remained of the Nelson Tenths estate was given back to its owners to decide how they wanted to manage the land. As a result, Wakatū Incorporation was formed in 1977 by the descendants of the original owners of the Tenths Reserves.
Wakatū took control over 2,994 acres of what remained of the Tenths Reserves and some Occupation Reserves. However, generations of oppressive legislation meant that the returns on the land were minimal.
Together with others, Wakatū lobbied against the unfair lease regime. New legislation was enacted in 1998 which enabled Māori to set market rents for our own land. However we are still constrained in the term of the lease.
Since 1977, our owners, board and management have worked steadily to improve the value of our land and business. Today, Wakatū is an internationally recognised indigenous business of the land and sea. With an asset base valued at over $250 million, we are the largest private land owner in the Nelson district and one of the largest employers in the region contributing significantly to the economic wealth and well-being of the community.