Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira
Today the Cook Strait domain of Ngāti Toa, while vast, is a tiny fraction of what it once was. Partly to prevent any further loss of land and resources that were traditionally part of the tribal estate, Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira (the tribal authority) was established in 1989. As the representative body of Ngāti Toa it consists of 13 elected members whose goal is to protect and advance the mana of Ngāti Toa.
The authority employs around 70 people in activities relating to health, environmental management, local government, tourism, fisheries, Treaty of Waitangi claims, research, sports and recreation, and education. These are intended to promote the tribe’s socio-economic and cultural development, so that it can provide for present and future generations.
The Ngāti Toa treaty claim
The authority also plays an important role in leading Ngāti Toa’s quest for redress for past injustices inflicted by the government. The South Island aspect of the Ngāti Toa claim to the Waitangi Tribunal was heard in June 2003. Crown representatives sat for the first time in Ngāti Toa’s ancestral house, Toa Rangatira. They heard 150 years of grievances retold, as Ngāti Toa gave their account of past events.
This was a significant turning point in the history of Ngāti Toa. In telling their story, the people of Ngāti Toa were able to overcome much of the pain, loss and anger caused by the Crown. This represents a significant step in restoring Ngāti Toa to the dynamic tribe that it once was.
A Deed of Settlement for the tribe’s historic treaty claims was signed on 7 December 2012. Valued at approximately $75 million, this included the vesting and gifting back to the Crown of the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve. The settlement also provided for special legislation to acknowledge the significance of the haka ‘Ka Mate’ to Ngāti Toa history, culture and identity. The legislation requires acknowledgement of Te Rauparaha as the composer in certain circumstances.
There is no doubt that Ngāti Toa’s journey has at times been fraught with hardship and adversity, but today they are a vigorous people well poised to meet the challenges of the future. In this context, Te Rauparaha’s famous haka, ‘Ka mate, ka mate, ka ora, ka ora’ – which speaks of the triumph of life over death – is as relevant and inspirational as it was in 1820.