'It was a real treasure trove' - Sir Eddie Durie reveals his favourite Treaty inquiry

By Jessica Tyson

Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie has revealed the historical Treaty inquiry that gave him the “greatest satisfaction” during his time heading the Waitangi Tribunal.

He says it was the Muriwhenua fishing report because of the “extraordinary and extensive” knowledge that hapū involved had on Māori fishing practices and the lengths they took to protect their favourite fishing spots from other hapū.

“It was a real treasure trove of information that came out from that inquiry. These were the very people in the very far north who live bounded by the sea on all three sides and whose livelihood depended more than most people on what the sea could provide.”

Durie helped establish the Waitangi Tribunal in 1976 and become its first chairman, a position he held for more than 20 years.

Muriwhenua consists of six iwi, Ngāti Kurī, Ngāi Takoto, Te Pātū, Ngāti Kahu, Te Aupōuri and Te Rarawa. Throughout the Muriwhenua enquiry, Durie says different hapū involved asked for certain information to not be recorded.

Hapū secrecy

“They insisted in telling us with just their own hapū present and the other hapū not being there. We soon discovered that each hapū had a sequence of where the best place to fish, the right time of the years to fish, and what sort of years might most apply.  We didn’t record any of that. It was their wish.”

Durie, of Rangitäne, Ngäti Kauwhata and Ngāti Raukawa, was the first Māori to be appointed a judge on the Maori Land Court in 1974.

In 2009 he received his knighthood for a longstanding career in law but was unsure about accepting it given its “very colonial origins,” he says.

“So I did discuss it with a number of others who were around at the time and they were very adamant this should be taken, especially since Ngāti Kauwhata had not previously had a sir within the tribe.”

Sibling rivalry

Although he’s 12 months younger, he was pleased to receive the knighthood before his older brother, Sir Mason Durie.

“It gave me a sense of satisfaction to know that I was knighted ahead of my brother just became of ancient sibling rivalry.”

Durie says the rivalry between him and his two brothers, Sir Mason Durie and Ra Durie was very friendly.

“My brothers kept achieving things at Te Aute College, both brothers. I always wanted to beat them, I probably felt the rivalry more keenly than them because I was the youngest.”

Sir Edward Durie appeared on Te Ngākau Tapatahi, a show profiling Māori dames and knights. The new "series from the Māori Television newsroom is running this week on Māori Television at 12pm. Find the first five episodes on Māori+ now and the full series from Sunday, January 23.