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Redress options ‘beyond money’

An expert economist for the Crown has encouraged the Waitangi Tribunal to look more at non-financial redress for Maori, in its bid to determine the Mangatu remedies claim.

Six claimant groups have applied to the Waitangi Tribunal for the return of Mangatu Crown forest-licensed land, and compensation for historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi made by the Crown to Maori.

The breach claims relate to events such as the siege of Waerenga a Hika in 1865, atrocities to Maori at Ngatapa in 1868, and rulings made by the Native Land Court during that era.

The grievances by Maori include loss of life and land, and generations of prejudice against Maori by the Crown as a result.

The claimaint groups are Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Nga Ariki Kaiputahi, Ngariki Kaiputahi (separate to the prior group), Te Whanau a Kai, Rangiwhakataetaea/Wi Haronga/Ngati Matepu, and Mangatu Incorporation.

Economist Dr John Yeabsley was the Crown’s witness on the final day of the tribunal hearing for the Mangatu remedies claim yesterday in Gisborne.

Dr Yeabsley presented his expert opinion and analysis on what three other economists — each representing a separate claimant group — had recommended to the tribunal as appropriate compensation for breaches by the Crown.

The evidence that received a lot of scrutiny from Dr Yeabsley was that of economist Dr Richard Meade, a witness for Te Aitanga a Mahaki.

Dr Meade estimated the monetary value of the overall compensation for the Mangatu claim would be $170 million, plus the return of the Crown forest-licensed land.

He took into account Crown breaches against Te Aitanga a Mahaki, which included the invasion at Waerenga a Hika that led to loss of life, the imprisonment of Maori on the Chatham Islands without trial, the ceding of over one million acres of land and the destruction of tribal structures, rendering whanau landless and impoverished.

Dr Yeabsley did not agree with this compensation package and questioned the methodology Dr Meade used towards reaching his estimate.

“Credible and practical options have not been given due consideration.”

Instead, Dr Yeabsley opted for a focus on non-monetary redress, saying there were a “range of terms beyond money” that should be explored.

“It’s about making a sincere effort to achieve restoration, looking forward,” he said.

“What might an appropriate remedy include?

“Valued non-ecomonic assets that would especially suit the iwi, that can be provided. This might include land or landscape features of outstanding significance. For example, rivers or mountains.

“Support for the iwi to do collective things such as create new institutions or enter into partnerships with Crown bodies or agencies.

“Assistance for young to follow their aspirations, including non-economic support like coaching or other efforts like consulting, to overcome barriers.”

“A positive model of redress must recognise non-monetary issues are salient, and economic and non-economic of life intertwine.

“The best way to improve people’s lives is to support their plans and supplement existing available public support.”

In Dr Meade’s evidence in August, he said, that as an economist, his brief as directed by Te Aitanga a Mahaki, was to quantify numbers in regards to loss of life and land, and grievances.

It would be up to the Tribunal to recommend non-monetary compensation.

During cross-examination yesterday, Dr Yeabsley admitted he had only analysed and read Dr Mead’s second brief of evidence, and not the first brief.

He also admitted to not reading a previous tribunal report, which focused on the nature of the inquiry and provided a background of information relating to the historical context of the case.

As he had not analysed the full complement of Dr Meade’s evidence, Tim Castle of the tribunal asked Dr Yeabsley what he could provide in assistance for the task at hand, which was to help the tribunal in regard to whether land was to be returned . . . if financial redress should be considered, if so how much, and an appropriate method for distribution.

“The nature of your evidence reflects the nature of your task,” said Mr Castle.

“You were asked to review three documents (of the three other economists) filed in this inquiry from an economic perspective.

“Did you at any time think you needed to see his (Dr Meade’s) first brief?

“What is it that you’re providing? A selective commentary on what Dr Meade has said is not very helpful, is it?

Dr Yeabsley said a short time frame to go over the evidence was the reason he was unable to read the first brief.

“There were a number of things I should have looked at. I apologise if that has been misleading.”