The Government has undermined its own negotiated Treaty settlements as it scrambles for arguments and precedents to prove “right of first refusal” doesn’t mean what it says.
It is important to look at the reasons the Treaty settlements have these clauses in them. They are in the settlements because they relate to land taken either violently or via manipulation by the Crown, or sometimes because the tangata whenua had gifted the land to the community for a school or hospital.
Sometimes the “RFR” is because the land in question is of extraordinary significance to tangata whenua. Hence the clauses are supposed to be a recognition of history by stating the tangata whenua will be first to be offered the land if the Crown decides to sell.
The clauses are not generous because they are at market rates, not land returned in good faith, and due to existing Crown “rights” sometimes unavailable for purchase for another 100 years or more.
I don’t recall any settlements saying that the right of first refusal comes after the land has been offered to private developers for a project or policy the Government wishes to pursue. This debacle shows bad faith with the settlement process and Ngati Whatua ki Orakei and Tainui have every right to take this matter to the High Court.
As a person who stood on Takaparawha (Bastion Point) in 1978 to support the rights of the hapu to their land which was threatened to be developed for private housing, I find this situation sadly ironic.
Ngati Whatua ki Orakei were forcibly removed from their papakainga at Okahu Bay and then had to occupy their last bastion on the hill for more than 500 days before the army and police were used to remove them.
They won the day eventually and led a new era of land activism, but now face another round of injustice as Nick Smith attempts to trample on the land settlements so painfully extracted by one generation only to see it threatened again in the next.
Every hapu and iwi in Aotearoa, and all of us who stand as their allies, are watching this as a major threat to natural justice as well as to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.