October 2014 Māori Law Review

Tūhoe-Crown settlement – Te Wharehou o Tūhoe: The house that ‘we’ built

Professor Rawinia Higgins describes the building of new governance arrangements for Tūhoe along with the journey that saw the construction of a new house for Tūhoe.


Last year I was invited to partake in the Constitutional Review series aired on Radio New Zealand and talk about the Tūhoe Treaty of Waitangi Settlement and more specifically the creation of Te Wharehou o Tūhoe (a new house for Tūhoe) (‘Debating the Constitution 3: Māori Aspirations’ from Constitutional Review, 28 April 2013. http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/constitutional-review).

The following is an adaptation of the address I gave as part of this. The building of Te Wharehou o Tūhoe under the name Te Uru Taumatua, as our Post Settlement Governance Entity (PSGE) is not just the figurative structure of a political governance entity but also the literal building of Te Kura Whare in Tāneatua to house the PSGE, and more importantly to house our kōrero (histories), our people and provide a shelter for Tūhoe future aspirations.


Like the construction of any house, many people are often involved in different aspects of that house. Cumulative tales like the classic ‘This is the house that Jack built’ with its multiple stanzas highlights the different relationships that Jack had in order for him to build his house. Despite the tale continually referring to Jack as building the house, the substance of this tale shows that Jack didn’t build the house by himself.

The construction of Te Wharehou o Tūhoe has involved, directly and indirectly, countless people. It is a cumulative tale that involves the relationships Tūhoe have had and continue to have with our own hapū, with other iwi and with the Crown. The Tūhoe Treaty of Waitangi Settlement is another stanza to Tūhoe history that will be added to this cumulative tale. However, it is one where many dreams and aspirations for Tūhoe will be realised and the prospect of a new and different future is enabled.

The historical injustices of the past that formed the basis of the Tūhoe Treaty of Waitangi Settlement are well documented and too extensive to discuss in this article. However, a snapshot of these historical events can be located on the whare hou’s website (http://www.ngaituhoe.iwi.nz/our-history). (Ed. And see Vincent O’Malley’s background to the Tūhoe settlement (2014) October Māori LR.)

When people think of Tūhoe there are many descriptions that come to mind. However, despite how we have been portrayed historically as rebellious or more recently as terrorists, the foundations of the whare hou (new house) have never changed. Te Urewera and Mana Motuhake continue to be an innate part of who we are as Tūhoe and provide the solid foundations from which Tūhoe were able to construct the whare hou. In negotiating the Tūhoe Treaty of Waitangi settlement Te Urewera and Mana Motuhake were ‘bottom line’ items. Te Kotahi a Tūhoe, as the mandated body established to manage the Tūhoe Treaty of Waitangi Settlement negotiations, were told fervently by Tūhoe not to bother with any settlement if these were not guaranteed. The negotiation of the settlement’s quantum was the other bottom line that was included in the Te Kotahi a Tūhoe’s mandate.

The Treaty of Waitangi settlements process has been interesting for Tūhoe. For a long time, this fell under the raupatu claim of WAI 36 that was led by the Tūhoe Waikaremoana Trust Board. 1 Some dissatisfaction from other members of Tūhoe brought together Ngā Rauru o Ngā Pōtiki as a collective to support other claims that fell outside of WAI 36. Fifteen Te Urewera Inquiry hearings were convened between 2003 and 2005 and provided the evidence of the extent of the historical grievances against the Crown before the Waitangi Tribunal. Many of these historical injustices are described as some of the worst committed during the colonial era and furthermore, were compounded by more than a century of continued failures to rectify these injustices. 2

In an effort to coordinate and cooperate, these two claimant collectives came together and in November 2005 3 Te Kotahi a Tūhoe was formed as the mandated iwi authority to negotiate and settle Tūhoe raupatu claims with the Crown. 4 By October 2006 there were approximately 30 Tūhoe Treaty of Waitangi Claims under the negotiations. Alongside the negotiation of all Tūhoe claims, Te Kotahi a Tūhoe were also responsible for negotiating Tūhoe’s interests in the Central North Island Settlement. The outcome of settling this aspect of Tūhoe claims saw Te Kotahi a Tūhoe create the Tūhoe Establishment Trust to establish a PSGE for Tūhoe that would lead to the consolidation of all Tūhoe authorities under the one roof.

Te Kotahi a Tūhoe gave the Tūhoe Establishment Trust a limited timeframe (2 years) from which to work towards building a Whare Hou for Tūhoe. Their role was to consult extensively with the hapū from Tūhoe as to what a new governance model would look like. Their focus was to establish the new Tūhoe Authority with the objective, ‘he Waihanga i te Whare Kaha o Tūhoe’ (to build a strong house for Tūhoe). At the time there were three entities that had some form of mandate from the iwi. The Tūhoe Waikaremoana Māori Trust Board (TWMTB), Te Kotahi a Tūhoe and the Tūhoe Fisheries Charitable Trust (TFCT).

The Tūhoe Establishment Trust ascertained that the iwi wanted to consolidate all their asset groups to service the people. This objective would lead to one administration of Tūhoe authorities and would better realise the enactment of Mana Motuhake. As the TWMTB and the TFCT both came under distinct legislation this required some negotiation to ensure that consolidation was achieved through the collective effort of shareholders, beneficiaries and the governance bodies of each of these entities. This was enabled primarily because as an iwi the collective interest to achieve Mana Motuhake was the ultimate goal.

Mana Motuhake is a concept that is used in different contexts and means different things to different people. Mana Motuhake is classically defined as autonomy or independence. For Tūhoe we feel it is interdependence, because despite being isolated within what was known as Te Urewera National Park, Tūhoe have always maintained and relied on relationships with others outside of Te Urewera. Tūhoe have been accused of promoting separatism and anarchy against the state but we are more philosophical than that. We know that what defines us as Tūhoe is our whakapapa, our land and our right to determine our relationships with the land and the people. The provisions of the Deed of Settlement relating to Mana Motuhake are about a working relationship between Tūhoe and the Crown over 40 years 5 to create better outcomes for Tūhoe in Te Urewera. In the press release relating to the Service Management Plan, Christopher Finlayson stated “One of the goals of the SMP is to assist Tūhoe to build their capability to manage their own affairs as much as possible, while assisting the Crown in improving delivery of services in Te Urewera.” 6 (Ed. See Māmari Stephens’ article on the Service Management Plan (2014) October Māori LR.)

The realisation of Tūhoe Mana Motuhake is located in Te Urewera. Although philosophically Tūhoe have maintained their Mana Motuhake over Te Urewera, this has historically proven difficult to demonstrate while Te Urewera was still legally recognised as a National Park. As part of the settlement, Te Urewera now has its own legal identity and recognition of the philosophical belief that Tūhoe have held for generations. Te Urewera existed before the people and will continue to exist long after the people and that our role is to take care of it for future generations.   This has been reflected in Te Urewera Act 2014. It recognises Tūhoe as the kaitiaki of Te Urewera and ensures that Tūhoe is enabled to fulfil this role as part of the Te Urewera Board. Tūhoe will chair this board, and eventually over time will transition to holding the majority of seats on this board. This is distinctly different from the role Tūhoe served when Te Urewera was a National Park. During the negotiations process there was a perception that the return of Te Urewera to Tūhoe would mean that Tūhoe would prohibit people from accessing Te Urewera. This is further from the truth.

Although the eventual legislative outcome of Te Urewera is one in which Tūhoe supports (particularly as Te Urewera is an integral part in the construction of the Whare Hou) there was a moment in the negotiations journey where this was momentarily jeopardised. On the eve of signing the Agreement in Principle with the Crown in 2010 Prime Minister John Key removed Te Urewera from the negotiation table. For many in the tribe this demonstrated yet again the Crown’s undermining of Tūhoe Mana Motuhake. This action proved a challenging time for Te Kotahi a Tūhoe in forging ahead with the negotiations and potentially had set the settlement process back at square one. However, the desire to continue with the construction of Te Whare Hou, outweighed the emotional angst associated with the removal of Te Urewera at that time. Te Kotahi a Tūhoe continued to negotiate not only with the Crown (but also the iwi) and eventually saw Te Urewera returned to the negotiation table.

After a period of discontent and frustration, a significant turning point in the negotiation took place between Tūhoe and the Crown committing to a way forward. On the 2 July 2011 a political compact between Tūhoe and the Crown was signed in Ruatāhuna, ‘Nā Kōrero Ranatira ā Tūhoe me Te Karauna.’ 7 In the compact, it states:

Tatū mai ki tēnei wā, kua herea a Tūhoe me Te Karauna kia rite tētahi puretumu e whakatikaina ai nā tini hē i whakawhiua poka noatia ai a Tūhoe i roto i nā rau tau, otiia, ki tēnā whakatipurana ki tēnā whakatipurana. He wā momoho tēnei mā māua, mā Tūhoe me Te Karauna kia hīkoi, kia mahi tahi hoki kia kaua ai e tāmatemate te āhua ranatira, kia mau pū tonu ai te whakamanawatana o tāua tahi, kia ana whakamua ai anō te ora mō tāua tahi. E tika ana anō hoki, hai whāina pae tata mā tāua, kia whakaae tahi tāua ki ō tāua āheina mana, tēnā ki tō tēnā.

Now, however Tūhoe and the Crown have committed themselves to achieving a just and honourable redress for the manifold wrongs inflicted on Tūhoe over centuries and many generations. It is timely, therefore, that we, Tūhoe and the Crown, resolve to walk and work together for our mutual honour, dignity, advantage and progress. And it is fitting that in furtherance of such resolve the Crown and Tūhoe should acknowledge their respective mana. 8

The significance of this compact restored some faith in Tūhoe that the Crown was willing to acknowledge their mana and continue to work towards a settlement. Furthermore, the signatories to this document were the hapū of Tūhoe, rather than Te Kotahi a Tūhoe to give substance to the compact. The organisation of Tūhoe has always been hapū based, and within the respective taraipara (tribals), 9 issues that relate specifically to hapū are managed by these taraipara to ensure the protection and maintenance of Tūhoe Mana Motuhake, particularly over resources and boundaries.

The Tūhoe Establishment Trust continued to meet its objectives and set into place the Whare Hou. This included a pathway that led to the consolidation of the existing authorities, a representation framework and election process, consolidating the iwi register, work on infrastructure plans including buildings and locations, as well as establishing an investment committee that protected assets and prepared the finances for the transfer to the new Tūhoe authority. The outcome of this work saw the establishment of the governance body Te Uru Taumatua – Te Whare Hou o Tūhoe.

A significant project that Te Uru Taumatua undertook was not only the figurative establishment of Te Whare Hou, it was also the literal establishment of Te Kura Whare in Tāneatua. This award winning ‘green’ living building was a collaborative effort with architects, designers, engineers, builders and other contractors as well as Tūhoe people themselves. The materials for this building literally come from Te Urewera including the wood and the clay that were used to form the bricks that feature in the building. Clay was tested from all regions of Te Urewera and everyone from the tribe was invited to create these bricks. The opportunity to physically contribute to the creation of a Whare Hou, which serves as a headquarters for the tribe, allows the people to take ownership of the Whare through their participation in the literal creation of it.

While Te Kura Whare was being built, Te Kotahi a Tūhoe continued with negotiations and on 22 March 2013 they initialled the Deed of Settlement in Wellington. The signing of the Deed of Settlement occurred in June 2013. Over a thousand people came to this ceremony at Parliament buildings. In keeping with Tūhoe Mana Motuhake beliefs, Te Kotahi a Tūhoe as well as a member from each hapū of Tūhoe signed the Deed of Settlement. Tūhoe who also attended the ceremony were given copies to sign to further endorse the tribe’s support for the Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

As the Te Urewera-Tūhoe Bill made its way through Parliament, Te Kura Whare was completed and opened in March 2014. The second reading of the Bill took place on 7 May 2014 and the Committee of the whole House was held the following month. It was noted by parliamentarians that it was unusual for Treaty of Waitangi settlement legislation to have to come back for the Committee of the whole House, however, despite some minor debate; it progressed to its third and final reading on 24 of July 2014.

The final aspect of the creation of the Whare Hou occurred on the 22 August 2014 at Te Kura Whare in Tāneatua, when the Crown delivered its apology for the historical grievances inflicted on Tūhoe. From a Tūhoe perspective this was a different position to be placed in. People had not generally come to apologise to the iwi. However, it was decided that it should be viewed as a ‘hohou i te rongo’ (sealing of the peace) opportunity and with the return of specific taonga to the iwi by the Crown this would give significance to such an occasion. Tūhoe decided to reciprocate by returning the hapū flags that bore the Union Jack insignia that had been used at the various marae across Te Urewera to confirm this peace pact.

In his delivery, the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations the Honourable Christopher Finlayson, concluded his speech by saying: ‘Let these words guide our way to a greenstone door – tatau pounamu – which looks back on the past and closes it, which looks forward to the future and opens it.’ 10 The building of Te Whare Hou o Tūhoe is analogous to this tatau pounamu and the future for Tūhoe looks prosperous as we open the door to the future opportunities that firmly recognise Te Mana Motuhake o Tūhoe and Te Urewera.

In returning to the reference of the cumulative tale of Jack and the house he built, and in writing the next stanza of Tūhoe’s tale, we know that the Whare Hou was a combined and collaborative effort that began generations beforehand and its success can only be realised generations from now. What we do know is that this collective effort was premised on our fundamental and unwavering belief in Te Urewera and Mana Motuhake. Maintaining this drive was aided by statements used in early Tūhoe literature relating to the settlements process 11 such as ‘Tātau Katoa, Tātau Ka Toa’ (through our collective power we can succeed). Simple, effective and now realised so Tūhoe can say: Te Uru Taumatua - this is the house that ‘we’ built.


  1. This claim was lodged by James Te Wharehuia Milroy and Tamaroa Nikora (on behalf of Tūhoe). It was later managed by the Tūhoe Waikaremoana Trust Board.
  2. Te Kotahi a Tūhoe, 2006. The Voice of Ngāi Tūhoe – Mandate Pathways Towards Negotiation & Settlement p.5.
  3. Te Kotahi a Tūhoe, 2006. The Voice of Ngāi Tūhoe – Mandate Pathways Towards Negotiation & Settlement p.3.
  4. Tūhoe Establishment Trust, 2009. He Waihanga i te Whare Kaha o Tūhoe, p.6.
  5. As articulated in the Service Management Plan signed between Tūhoe and the Crown.
  6. http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/social-service-management-plan-ngāi-tuhoe-agreed
  7. This political compact is bilingual and the Māori is written using a Tūhoe dialect and thus omits the ‘g’. Interestingly the title provided for the English translation is still in te reo Māori but includes the ‘g’ i.e. ‘Ngā Kōrero Rangatira ā Tūhoe me Te Karauna’ and makes it distinctive from the Tūhoe version.
  8. ‘Nā Kōrero Ranatira ā Tūhoe me Te Karauna – Ngā Kōrero Rangatira a Tūhoe me Te Karauna’ Political compact document signed by the hapū of Tūhoe and the Crown, 2nd July 2011, Ruatāhuna.
  9. The taraipara is a Tūhoe management system in which hapū located in particular parts of Te Urewera govern themselves and respond to issues related to their region. These are located in Waimana, Ruatoki, Ruatāhuna and Waikaremoana and are made up of representatives of the hapū located in their region. It is through these taraipara that representatives are selected on to the governance board of Te Uru Taumatua.
  10. Hon Christopher Finlayson, 22 August 2014, ‘Address to Tuhoe-Crown Settlement Day in Taneatua’ in http://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/address-tuhoe-crown-settlement-day-taneatua
  11. In this case specifically in relation to the Tūhoe and CNI claims to Kāingaroa, 2009: Tūhoe Establishment Trust.

Author: Rawinia Higgins

Professor Rawinia Higgins is the Head of Te Kawa a Māui – School of Māori Studies and Assistant Vice Chancellor Māori Research at Victoria University. She has served as a trustee on Te Kotahi a Tūhoe and the Tūhoe Fisheries Charitable Trust.