By Willie Jackson
What a cheek some people in the Devonport community have for opposing the return of a parcel of land to the Ngati Whatua tribe.
The Narrow Neck settlement is comprised of 3.2 hectares of land on the North Shore and is part of the tribe's treaty settlement package.
Judging by the antagonism stirred up by settlement opponents, it might be more appropriate to rename it the Red Neck settlement.
Of course many will deny any hint of racism and argue their opposition is not against Maori but rather the Government.
I was told by a talkback caller on Radio Live this week that the land is very special to them, their parents and their grandparents. Some had even had their relatives' ashes spread over the land. So I accept it has become special to them.
But not for a minute do the opponents think about the huge injustice Ngati Whatua have endured after having had 31,565 hectares taken from them and being landless for more than 150 years.
Many Devonport residents have benefited from Ngati Whatua's hardship and the return of the 3.2 hectares now, although important, is not full compensation for the tribe's loss. In fact it's a symbolic gesture of the Crown's wrong-doing against them.
Ngati Whatua now unfairly have to justify their settlement like all tribes who have settled with the Crown.
In the face of stiff opposition, their public relations team will have to work overtime to explain why they are getting their land back, what they intend to do with it and why the Devonport community has nothing to fear with them owning the land.
The Crown for its part needs to do more to help Ngati Whatua receive their land with the respect they deserve, instead of having to put up with the constant lies perpetuated by an ill-informed public and media.
Those lies will never be rectified until our history is taught properly in schools and until the media starts to print the truth about Treaty settlements.
It's a process that has seen tribes compensated pathetically for less than $1 billion during the past 25 years.
Compare that to the $1.8 billion paid out to South Canterbury Finance virtually overnight and it's obvious who gets a raw deal. But the public doesn't know this – just like they don't know how generous Ngati Whatua have been to Auckland city.
They have gifted most of their land to Auckland despite much of it being stolen and they will now rightfully get back Narrow Neck.
Manukau Courier, 13th April 2012.