Mangatū Forest lands hearing underway in Gisborne

By Talisa Kupenga

The Waitangi Tribunal is under pressure from the Supreme Court of New Zealand to issue binding recommendations for the return of Mangatū Crown forest licensed lands to Māori in the region, as a remedy for historical claims.

The issue is part of the Mangatū Remedies claims hearing in Gisborne. 

Mangatū Incorporation wants its former forestry land returned and compensation for forestry profit loss due to breaches by the Crown.

Mangatū Incorporation and Te Aitanga a Mahaki spokeman Willie Te Aho says, "We are asking for one-percent compensation and that equates to $175 million."

Ngā Ariki Kaiputahi spokesman Owen Lloyd says, "They were paid a fair market rate but because the Crown made a mistake by selling the forestry rights off then there has to be some compensation made and I tautoko that, but not utilising our land."

Te Aho says the total value of Mangatū Forest land is around $12mil.  The lands are also subject to Treaty claims by Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Ngā Ariki Kaipūtahi, and Te Whānau a Kai.

Lloyd says, "This is a totally different ballgame because this comes under the Crown Forestry Assets Act.  That means the ground and everything above the ground is included whereas before the negotiation was for the land itself."

Te Aho says, "The Crown told us if we didn't agree to sell they would take it under the Public Works Act and because of that the land was sold."

All groups had asked the Tribunal to make a binding recommendation for the return of Mangatū Crown forest licensed lands, but the tribunal has declined, saying the precedent it would set could cause more grievances than it would solve.

Lloyd says, "The lands need to return to the mana whenua, let them decide what should happen together.  But the Crown shouldn't be able to take our land from us again and give it to another group."

Te Aho says "the Tribunal has the power so what Te Aitanga a Mahaki wants is for the Tribunal to be mindful and consider Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Nga Ariki and Te Whanau a Kai."

The hearings end Friday.