One of the most important aspects of the Crown’s Settlement Offer was a formal apology by the Crown. The wording was given much thought by both parties. The Crown included a formal apology as part of the Deed of Settlement and the settlement legislation to acknowledge that Ngāi Tahu suffered grave injustices that significantly impaired its economic, social and cultural development.
In the Apology “the Crown expressed its profound regret and apologised unreservedly” for the suffering and hardship caused to Ngāi Tahu. Importantly, the Apology confirmed the validity of the Ngāi Tahu Claims, which had been borne by seven generations. The Crown sought to atone for these acknowledged injustices on behalf of all New Zealanders and also apologised publicly.
The Apology was in both Māori and English, and acknowledged that the Crown acted “unconscionably and in repeated breach of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in its dealings with Ngāi Tahu in the purchase of Ngāi Tahu land.”
The Crown recognised that it “failed to act towards Ngāi Tahu reasonably and with the utmost good faith, consistent with the honour of the Crown” and failed to “preserve and protect Ngāi Tahu use and ownership of such of their land and valued possessions as they wished to retain”.
With the historical grievances settled, the Crown wanted to “begin the process of healing and to enter a new age of co-operation with Ngāi Tahu”.
The Crown also acknowledged that the settlement did not “diminish or in any way affect the Treaty of Waitangi or any of its Articles or the ongoing relationship between the Crown and Ngāi Tahu … or undermine any rights under the Treaty…” It also acknowledged that by agreeing to the settlement Ngāi Tahu was “forgoing a substantial part of the redress sought” and this was recognised as a contribution to the development of New Zealand.
Q: Why did the Crown make an apology?
A: Receiving an apology for misdeeds, however long ago, is always the first step in the healing process. It is a very important part of the Deed of Settlement, and will go a long way with our elders to atone for the past. It does not mean we forget the past, but it gives the Crown an opportunity to make amends, and for Ngāi Tahu and the Crown to move on with the healing process. It is also something that could only have been obtained through a negotiated settlement. No legal process could bring about such opportunity for reconciliation. To some Ngāi Tahu this is the most important part of the settlement. The Apology was given at Ōnuku Marae on November 29 1998.