Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri and the wider Chatham Islands community have celebrated the opening of a new civic building and museum.
The Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Civic Building and Chatham Islands Museum was officially opened by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her first visit to the Islands, and the first visit by a prime minister since 2012.
Travelling with the Prime Minister is Miria Pōmare, bringing her tūpuna patu parāoa (whalebone club) to Wharekauri, which is destined to take pride of place in the new museum.
Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust chief executive Gail Amaru says the return of the patu is a significant event in the history of Ngāti Mutunga.
“The patu parāoa was carried in 1835 by Pōmare Ngātata, who led the Māori now known as Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri from Wellington harbour to Wharekauri,” says Amaru.
“He secured safe passage on that ship to Wharekauri for hundreds of our tūpuna in two separate voyages. This precious taonga has been passed down through generations of the Pomare whānau and we’re incredibly honoured to welcome Miria Pomare, the current kaitiaki of the patu, here today.
“We’re thrilled to have the Prime Minister here to witness the return of the patu and to open the museum that will house it,” she says.
Commissioned by Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust, the Chatham Islands Museum and Cultural Heritage Charitable Trust and the Chatham Islands Council, the office facility and museum has been built on land owned by Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust.
The office part of the development was funded entirely by Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri and funding for the museum was provided separately by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Asset Holding Company chair Joseph Thomas says the office facility represents an excellent, sustainable investment for the pre-settlement iwi. The asset is leased back to the Chatham Islands Council for a 30-year term.
“Developing and owning an infrastructure type property such as this, tenanted by local government with a large component of central government-backed funding, is a high-quality investment for our iwi,” he says.
“We are particularly proud to be hosting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at this significant event acknowledging the valuable role that this facility will play in our community,” Thomas says.
Iwi and Crown forge new beginnings
Ardern’s visit, alongside Crown-Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis also coincided with Ngāti Mutunga and the Crown signing an agreement in principle with both parties hoping it will bring about a fresh start in their relationship.
Iwi lead negotiator Tom McClurg says the AIP is a positive step forward in the process which began in 2016.
“Coming to an agreement allows us to establish a proper Treaty of Waitangi-based relationship with the Crown that has not existed since the annexation of Wharekauri/Chatham Islands in November 1842,” he says.
“Our people see the agreement with the Crown as a beginning rather than an end – a fresh start for nga uri o Ngāti Mutunga and the wider Wharekauri community,” McClurg says.
Mr McClurg is particularly pleased with the inclusion of a formal acknowledgement in the AIP of the unreasonable behaviour of the Crown during the 1842 annexation almost three years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in which the standards of the Crown’s expected conduct towards Māori were set out.
The AIP includes reference to a “profound failure” on the part of the Crown to pay “respect to the mana and te tino rangatiratanga of Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri”.
“In practice, the payment of that overdue respect by the Crown translates to a very small redress offer. But we also need to be pragmatic and take the offer to unlock opportunities previously denied to us because of that disrespect,” McClurg says.
“The way the settlement process has been managed has caused significant tension within our community, with one iwi settlement being fast-tracked while ours was still in negotiation, despite an agreement to negotiate both concurrently. This process has been particularly upsetting for some of our people, especially given that some whakapapa to both iwi on Wharekauri.
“While the proposed settlement doesn’t meet all our needs, it is heartening to see a renewed focus on relationship building, manaakitanga,” McClurg says. “It’s also heartening to recall that there is no such thing as ‘full and final’ in a relationship. Now our relationship with the Crown is being re-set, we have many generations ahead for that relationship to deliver benefits.”
Gail Amaru says the opening of the purpose-built office facility and adjoining Chatham Islands Museum, which was commissioned by Ngāti Mutunga, is representative of the way in which the Wharekauri community work effectively together in such a remote location.
“Ngāti Mutunga has an intergenerational, forward-looking focus. Our approach throughout the settlement process has been to honour our tūpuna and provide for our mokopuna by building a strong foundation for our future. Today’s signing is a transformational step towards that future,” she says.
“This AIP has been a long time coming and it is down to the steadfast work of many, led by Tom McClurg, whose determination in the face of protracted negotiations is relentless,” she says.
“We are all proud of our stance as iwi, Ngāti Mutunga are more united today than we were even six years ago when the process began,” Amaru notes.
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