by John Robinson

The Kapiti Coast District Council is carrying out a Representation Review, as is required by law each six years.  This has been proceeded by the Long Term Plan.  A draft report was presented to the Council meeting on 26 August (this article is written on 28 August), and much of the information here is from that report.  Council will have determined the initial proposal for community consultation on 26 August and will seek community comment very shortly after (1 September to 4 October; not much time to prepare a submission), will have a hearing of submissions on 19 October, and will make a final consideration on 26 October. The Cv restrictions in that time may mean it will need to be done online.

Kapiti is currently effectively co-governed through a partnership between the Council and some 4% of the population, members of three Waitangi Tribunal selected iwi.  This is (more or less, see below) within New Zealand law; information that I have received from Council makes this clear.

“In 1994 the Kāpiti Coast District Council (the Council) entered into a Memorandum of Partnership with Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga and Ngāti Toa Rangatira, the tangata whenua of the Kāpiti Coast District. 

“The Memorandum of Partnership (the Partnership) recognises the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) and its principles and is where the Council formally recognises Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga and Ngāti Toa Rangatira as the tangata whenua of the Kāpiti Coast. 

“The Memorandum of Partnership is also the foundation from which the Council gives effect to our legislative obligations to Māori under the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA), and Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) including (but not limited to): 

• The requirements for the Council to provide for Māori participation in decision-making; 

• To ensure processes are in place for consulting with Māori; and 

• The exercise of guardianship by the tangata whenua of an area in accordance with tikanga Māori, in exercising its functions and powers under the RMA.”

The reference here, as in national legislation, is to tangata whenua.  There are in fact no tangata whenua in Kapiti; the favoured tribes are correctly referred to elsewhere by Council as mana whenua, which is quite different as they were recent immigrants in 1840.  Thus, if the law were correctly administered, those regulations would have no relevance to Kapiti.  But this is New Zealand, where laws are carelessly written and thoughtlessly acted upon, where words are often undefined or taken to mean whatever an occasion demands.

The decision to take that action, with a fundamental alteration in the governing structure of the District, was not put in a poll before the ratepayers.  It has considerable weight, and the representatives of these three iwi play an important part in reaching decisions within Council.

This division into two — unequal — peoples is made abundantly clear in the intentions and in the presentation of the recent Long Term Plan.  It was emphasised dramatically in the two-page spread in both the Kapiti News and the Kapiti Observer.  Equal prominence is given to the message from the Mayor (right-hand page) and the message from the three recognised iwi, the Mana Whenua (left-hand page), who spoke authoritatively about their intentions.

The Representation Review accepts this arrangement without question; it has been decided and the public are not asked their opinion.  The key role of these iwi in reaching major decisions is clear.

“While Council’s representation arrangements haven’t changed much over the past 20 years, our communities and their needs and expectations have changed significantly.  This representation review comes at a time of significant change for both local government and our district.  Local government is being asked to be agile, to remove barriers, to better reflect Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and to know and understand our communities better.  We’re seeing moves towards co-governance with mana whenua.

“On 29 October 2020 Council resolved not to establish a Māori ward for electoral purposes.  This decision was based on the recommendation of Council’s three iwi partners, Te Āti Awa ki Whakarongotai Charitable Trust, Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki and Ngāti Toa Rangatira, who did not support the consideration of a Māori ward for Kāpiti at this time. …On 1 March 2021 the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act (Amendment Act) came into force introducing changes to the treatment of Māori wards and constituencies.  Council consulted with each of its iwi partners on the implications of the Amendment Act which provided local authorities with a fresh opportunity to consider whether to establish a Māori ward.  Council’s iwi partners confirmed that while Māori ward representation on Council was important to them, their current priority was to strengthen their existing partnership with Council.”

The reason for that is obvious: at the present these iwi, less than 30% of Maori in the district, have considerable effective power, in addition to the same voting rights as all other citizens.  With wards, they would share that influence with other Maori, and would have just the one means of influence and power, of the vote.  Council has accepted their wish to conserve unequal effective representation – acceding to their demand.

Throughout this process there is no questioning of the continuation of this ‘partnership’, between our elected representatives and the chosen iwi, and no opportunity for consideration of that decision by the general public.  This review considers the choice of representation in the one partner of the dual government structure for the general public; the working of the other partner making decisions for our district is held to be none of our business.

Who are these iwi, and why should they have this special privilege?

The chosen iwi, the ‘mana whenua’, are not all the Maori in the district.  It is the people of three iwi, Ngati Toa, Te Atiawa and Ngati Raukawa, who are less than 30% of the 14% who are Maori (Council figures) – less than 4.2% of the Kapiti population.  Their position is not earned, it is inherited from ancestors two centuries ago (by race; as Maori they are, in legislation, members of the Maori race).

The ancestors of Ngati Toa, Te Atiawa and Raukawa lived elsewhere, to the north, before 1820; they were not the long-term inhabitants of Kapiti.  Any reference to these iwi as ‘tangata whenua’, as in the above quotes, is incorrect.

First, in 1819-1820, there came a taua, a band of savage warriors, when Ngati Toa joined with Ngapuhi from the north to ravage the district.  They saw that there was good land here with weakened tribes ripe for conquest.

During the first decades of the nineteenth century, Ngati Toa and Te Atiawa had been under constant murderous attack from enemy tribes (such as Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto), and they decided to move away, to find a new home and to themselves attack, kill and drive off those then living here in Kapiti.  In 1821-1822 a migration of Ngati Toa, with many of their allies, Te Atiawa, Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama, came to drive out those living in Kapiti in bloody battle and to take the land.  The treachery of the large Muaupoko tribe at Horowhenua, when they greeted the newcomers in apparent friendship before attacking and killing many, resulted in the unrelenting hatred of Te Rauparaha, and subsequently Muaupoko were almost completely wiped out.

There were struggles for the land.  At Paekakariki, in 1823, Ngati Toa were attacked by Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Ira from Wellington and suffered heavy losses.  

Ngati Toa had been weakened as many of their principal allies in Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa had left to return to their previous homes in Taranaki.  They needed a safe refuge, which they found on Kapiti Island.  In 1824 they were attacked there by a great, combined taua of their foes – a wide range of iwi had cause to seek utu from Ngati Toa.  The fleet of the attacking taua had such a great number that the war canoes were almost continuous across the five kilometres from the mainland to the island.  But Ngati Toa prevailed and the attack failed.

Warfare was widespread across the country, and many Ngati Raukawa and Te Atiawa came in great treks to find sanctuary with Ngati Toa in Kapiti.  In 1828, with the strengthened forces and a large stock of firearms, and using the many canoes captured from the 1824 attackers, a fleet of war canoes crossed Cook Strait to Queen Charlotte Sound with a taua of 340 picked warriors from Ngati Toa, Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama, and Ngati Raukawa.  Further murderous raids to the south followed, as in 1831.

In 1830, Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga had sent a taua to attack Ngati Kahungunu, after which a truce of sorts had been arranged.  Later, in 1832, Ngati Kahungunu were invited to a feast at Waikanae, where they were treacherously attacked and killed by their Te Atiawa hosts.

In the early 1830s, the land on Kapiti Island and along the coast was overpopulated, crowded by many tribes, and the resources were severely strained.  With the increased population, relations among the several tribes in Kapiti started to fray, and, under the habits of tikanga, the resulting conflict resolution was by war.  In 1834, a conflict broke out between Te Atiawa and Ngati Raukawa.  When fighting spread, Ngati Raukawa made a call for help to Te Heuheu of Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Te Wherowhero of Waikato, and a combined force came to the aid of the besieged Ngati Raukawa.  After further fighting, negotiations led to a formal agreement and there was an uneasy peace; but the coalition was shattered.

More conflict in Kapiti followed in 1839.  When there was dispute, some Ngati Raukawa were keen to even up old scores dating back to the 1834 combat and there was bitter fighting in Waikanae.  Estimates of the casualties differ: between seventy and two hundred Ngati Raukawa and between twenty and thirty-six Te Atiawa and Taranaki died in that fight.  

The coming of these people to Kapiti brought two decades of violence.  Peace came only in 1840 with the acceptance of the national, colonial government, leaving those last comers in possession of the lands that they had taken.

This is not a history to be proud of; there is nothing here, no action taken by these iwi that we can celebrate or should reward.  There is only a memory of bloodshed, misery and disruption.

Meaningful representation is when we all have equal rights, and each of us has one vote, all of equal value.  The Council thus chosen should itself make decisions; that is their duty and the task that they have put themselves forward to carry out, based on the needs and wishes of all citizens without discrimination and favour to any one group.  Special rights, as exist in Kapiti today, undermine democracy and deny equal representation.

Council should put an end to this unwanted discrimination, and revoke all decisions setting up division and partnership.  Members of the three iwi referred to as ‘mana whenua’ (and, wrongly, in some cases, as ‘tangata whenua’) should take their place in a unified community as citizens, equal with us all.