Saturday, 10 August 2019

Submission on the Gifting of 11 Mission St to the Otamataha Trust

View of Mauao, the Tauranga Harbour and part of Otamataha Pa from the C.M.S. Mission Station
Pen-and-ink sketch by John Kinder, Christmas 1857
Glass plate copy negative by J.D. Richardson, c.1910s-1920s
Courtesy of Auckland Libraries, Sir George Grey Collection, Ref. 4-1218
The following submission was made by Beth Bowden on behalf of the Society during the Tauranga City Council's hearing on 1 August 2019. Thank you, Beth.

It is a rare thing, in history, to find an opportunity to put matters right. Most of the work of historians involves working out what changed – at worst, what went wrong - in the past, and how, and why; most of us try to do so with an honest appreciation of the biases of hindsight. The burden of the present - contemporary prejudices and preferences - is inescapable.

The Tauranga Historical Society, which exists, among other things, to “foster and maintain a public appreciation of places and things of historic interest.... in the Bay of Plenty area” therefore has some sympathy with the various points of view being put forward concerning the process of making the property at 11 Mission Street available for use by The Elms Foundation. Everyone concerned is wrestling with the past – of just over a decade on the one hand; and nearly two centuries, on the other.

History teaches us that ‘public appreciation’ shifts and changes. In our submission, the story of 11 Mission Street aptly illustrates that lesson. And, in our submission, the right thing to do, given the history of the site, is to return it to the Otamataha Trust. We therefore stand alongside those who take the longer view, rather than those who base their arguments on expectations and intentions framed during the last thirteen years.

A straightforward gift to the Elms Foundation does seem to have been the eventual intention when the TCC purchased the property in 2006.

Alongside that, the Society balances the even clearer intention of the Church Missionary Society, expressed in 1855:
“Land... was acquired... solely for the purposes of the Mission, and the possession of it intended to promote through the Mission, the spiritual welfare... and permanent benefit to the Natives...”
Thanks to the careful research of Dr Evelyn Stokes and  Dr Alistair Reese, who has traced [Naboth’s Vineyard] the eventual and total alienation of CMS lands to the Crown, we know exactly how Te Papa became “no place for native settlements.”

Similarly, the Society takes note of the force of the 2004 finding of the Waitangi Tribunal that the award of the Te Papa block to the CMS in 1852 was in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.  History, especially modern history and international relations practice, is full of ways and means to remedy treaty breaches. We are not surprised to see that the Council’s efforts to meet the spirit of the Tribunal’s decision have been complex and involve compromise.  We commend the sense of mutual respect and dignity accorded to the parties concerned in this restitution process.  Not all such efforts have gone so well.

It is a well-worn truism that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Since opportunities to break the repetitive pattern of pakeha occupation and control of land in Te Papa are rare, the Society encourages Council to depart from the worthy but narrow intentions that lay behind the purchase decision of 2006. We promote a wider, more inclusive view of the history of this peninsula. We see strong symbolic and, eventually, historic value in making 11 Mission Street over to the Otamataha Trust so that they may, in conjunction with the Elms Foundation, give expression to some of the hopes and ideals expressed at the time of the original missionary occupation.

Nothing, now, will restore to the descendants of Ngati Tapu, Ngai Tamarawaho, and Ngai Tukairangi the 240 hectares of the Te Papa peninsula that Deacon Brown traded for goods worth ‘near L200’ in 1839. His recorded motives expressed an intention to prevent settlement, sly-grogging and trading, which only goes to show how original intentions suffer alteration. The intentions of the tangata whenua are best described by reference to the Waitangi Tribunal [WAI 215, Te Raupatu o Tauranga Moana, 2004]: original permission to occupy nineteenth-century Te Papa, by anyone, Maori or pakeha, was of a shared and conditional nature.

It is not unusual for historians to propose, from studying an area’s past, that uses and boundaries have been fluid rather than mutually exclusive.  And historians also find that private, exclusive, use can change. It is as well to acknowledge here that the family home bequeathed to the Tauranga Historical Society, Brain Watkins House, was built on confiscated land and is now open to the public as a House Museum.

The Society has therefore formed the considered view that the best way to deal with the current question of who is best placed to own and control the land at 11 Mission Street is
  • to take the steps outlined in Council’s proposal to transfer 11 Mission Street to the Otamataha Trust and
  • for that Trust, in conjunction with the Elms Foundation, to use the property for further development of the Mission House as a place of historical experience and understanding of the past.
Far from over-complicating the matter, such a process upholds and exemplifies the history and function of the original Mission Station as a negotiated space, in place as well as time.

Further drawing from the Waitangi Tribunal report: the Council does not have to behave in typically pakeha terms: over-simplifying motives and consequences and ignoring inconvenient truths. The current position, as we understand it, is that neither the Otamataha Trust nor The Elms Foundation has any objections to the course Council now proposes to follow. We also cannot see anything but good coming from a long-term, considered and deliberate development of 11 Mission Street under the care of the two institutions.

At the very least, the transfer to the Otamataha Trust and subsequent perpetual lease at a peppercorn rental to The Elms Foundation allows a semblance of the original relationship between the tangata whenua and the Church Mission Society to be represented in modern terms. We endorse the proposal.

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