In October 1986 a young Bohemian farmer from Puhoi, Allan Titford, entered into a contract to buy two adjoining, gently contoured freehold title farms at Maunganui Bluff, on Northland's west coast. Never in his wildest dreams did Allan Titford expect to face years of death threats, assaults, police brutality, two houses on his property razed to the ground and eventually being driven from his land for fear of the police and being murdered.
This was the first claim case of private land that was put before the Waitangi Tribunal, it was highly media profiled and caused widespread controversy. “If I had had traditional defence the Tribunal would have failed,” said Titford.
This would have to be the worst kind of human rights violations known to have occurred in a country with a reputation for its peace and tranquillity. There were no tranquil times for Allan Titford and his family. This is his story.
Setting the Scene for One of New Zealand’s Worst Cases of Human Rights Violation
Allan Titford is now 53 years old, forced out of his Northland home and financially ruined. He has lost his land, his career, his life as he knew it - but not his spirit to fight in uncovering the truth about the land he once owned. He fears that, because of the sheer amount of stress over 27 years trying to fight for his name and his land to reclaim the truth, he will never be able to farm in New Zealand again.
A careful, pre-purchase search of the titles covering the 1746 acres had shown that there were no claims, liens or other complications that could affect an anticipated business in cattle production. The land in question had enjoyed clear title since 1876, at which time Maori obtained freehold title which they sold to the Crown. The integrity of those titles had been proven in court proceedings using documented evidence on several occasions since the late 19th century.
The farms also included some coastal tracts that had full council approval for a subdivision, and, subdivided and sold off, would mean that Allan was poised to quickly pay off the mortgage covering the rest of his purchase.
But, unbeknown to Allan or to the Northland Council, mischief was afoot behind the scenes, with one Ned Nathan, of Te Roroa lineage, scheming to raise a Maori land claim on parcels of land at Maunganui Bluff and the Waipoua Forest, further to the north.
When the Waitangi Tribunal was created in 1975, it was accorded the right to call the government to task for any perceived breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi from 1975 onwards. Anything prior to 1975 was considered to have been "fully and finally" settled already, with the last of the settlements being completed for Ngai Tahu and Tainui by the Fraser government in 1944 and 1947.
Ned Nathan moved his family north from Porirua in the early eighties, perhaps after being tipped off by his friend, Graham Latimer, that the 'claims policy' was soon to change and that retrospective claims back to 1840 would shortly become a possibility. A veritable gold-rush was about to open up for those in the know.
Ned Nathan simply regurgitated the old, failed repurchase proposal, based upon two small parcels of land which, in about 1874 or early 1875, had been proposed for repurchase from the Crown called 'plan of native reserves' by Maori outside Maunganui. By mid 1875 the proposal had been abandoned, as other tradeoffs had taken place between Maori by voluntary agreements.
Decades after the huge block sales were formally completed in 1876, a few opportunists, from time to time, had tried to get a second bite of the cherry by stating that there were 'forgotten reserves' yet to be awarded to them (not isolated to this parcel of land – it was a common submission practice New Zealand wide). However, under official investigation and close scrutiny of the relevant documents (there is testimony from the Surveyor General, Stephenson Percy Smith in 1899, refuting the claim including earlier refutation of the “sketch plan of Native Reserves as Survey has not been made” stated in October 1875), the claims about 'forgotten reserves' were always rejected as spurious.
Of Nathan, Mr L.G. Fraser, the district field officer of the Department of Lands and Survey, Whangarei, wrote on 15 November, 1985:
“Mr Ned Nathan seems to be the leading local person pursuing this claim and he also sits on the Waitangi Tribunal in place of Graham Latimer when he has an interest in the land under consideration.”
As it turns out, this very rudimentary 'reserves proposal' came to nought in 1876, when the Native Land Court awarded full, undisputed title of the Maunganui block to Chief Parore Te Awha of Ngapuhi. He then sectioned off an altogether different reserve for himself called Taharoa, at Kai Iwi Lakes, as an 'eel-fishery' and promptly sold the rest of the block to the Crown, including the two parcels earlier proposed for repurchase by outsiders who failed to have any claim whatsoever.
Although Allan Titford was totally unaware of it, Ned Nathan's sons, Alex and Manos, made their first formal intimation of a claim on 10 November, 1986 in a letter to the Waitangi Tribunal (prior to confirmation of the Waitangi Tribunal coming into force in hearing claims before 1975, this demonstrates insider trading). They alleged that the sale of the Maunganui block was improper, inasmuch as the Crown, in 1876, forgot about the reserves on the southern side of Maunganui Bluff.
Earlier in 1986, Maori Affairs Minister Koro Wetere had been called upon by the Nathans to investigate the matter anew, and he reported his findings in a letter to the Hon Lockwood Smith in April of that year. Wetere wrote:
“The Government of the day adopted the Chief Judge's recommendation. I have studied the report of the petitioner and advised the Maunganui Reserves Trustees Committee that I am inclined to agree with the Chief Judge on the interpretation of the facts and unless the committee has new evidence that has not been brought to light before I cannot see that there are any grounds today for the Crown to change its stance on the matter.”
This was the same conclusion arrived at by paramount Ngapuhi chief, Graham Rankin, after he studied the documented evidence leading up to the Crown purchase in 1876, and he stated the same categorically to the Hon Margaret Wilson, Minister of Treaty Claims (4 June, 2001). So incensed was he by what had happened to the Titfords, the elderly, dying chief arranged for Allan to be a pallbearer at his funeral (23 June, 2001) as a strong gesture of support, even beyond the grave.
Despite Koro Wetere's stated requirements, the claimants had no new facts, just some new tricks of rewriting history and a new way to circumvent the traditional legal process.
The dossier of historical documents, covering all government or vendor-related activities leading up to the sale of the Maunganui and Waipoua blocks in 1876, was very complete and comprehensive. It included multitudes of survey maps, field books, letter and telegraph exchanges, gazette notices, Land Court deliberations, parliamentary investigations, witnessed agreements with interpreters present, as well as large and attractive deed of sale documents, amicably signed off by the legitimate Maori vendors and Crown purchasers (copy of the titles and deeds are available).
Moreover, the former Maori owners/vendors never made any reference to 'forgotten reserves' during their lifetimes or in their wills.
When Allan Titford first got a hint that a claim had been lodged for some part of the area at or near his farm, he went to see the Hon Lockwood Smith who informed him that:
”The reserve being claimed was the Maunganui Bluff Scenic Reserve itself and not my land.”
When asked, “If a claim was accepted on my land and it lost its value how would I get on?” Lockwood Smith replied:
“That the Crown would then have to compensate the claimants on valuation and leave me with the land if that situation did eventuate. He assured us that this claim would not be heard if it was for private land.”
Lockwood Smith’s response that 'no private land' would ever be (or has ever been) affected was trotted out by virtually every official of the day, from Tapsell to Lange and everyone in between. Prime Minister John Key reiterated this yet again recently.
Allan Titford had every reason to feel confident about his purchase. Firstly, the 'block sale' to the Crown was a very old one and the lands in question had passed through several generations of private hands, extending over a century.
Secondly, any prior questioning of the integrity of the title or concerning 'forgotten reserves' had already been comprehensively dealt with in about five investigations or full court proceedings, including the last major one in 1939-42.
Thirdly, all the needed records related to the Maunganui block purchase still existed (often in triplicate) and acknowledged experts in the Lands and Survey Department or other government agencies could be called upon, as needed, to lay out the impeccable historical evidence in step by step chronological order.
On land issues, fee simple, freehold title was considered sacrosanct. The articles of the Land Act 1948 or the Land Transfer Act 1952 were stringently enforced for the protection of property owners .... but, all of that was about to change.
In 1975 yet another organisation called the Waitangi Tribunal came into being, which sat away, largely independent of both the government and the judiciary. During the first decade or so from its inception it 'growed like Topsy', empowering itself more and more, to a point where it could virtually force the issue and hold sway over both the government and judiciary. The claim against Alan Titford’s land was the Waitangi Tribunal’s very first case.
Geoffrey Palmer's nebulous 'Five Principles' went a long way towards legitimising the rulings of this burgeoning monstrosity, allowing it to hold the entire country to ransom, while catering only to Maori (mostly corporate) interests.
For Allan Titford and his equally unfortunate neighbour, Don Harrison, the usual crown and government protections (including police) that New Zealanders had come to expect as a birthright would be, by and large, hobbled or neutralised, often leaving them isolated and vulnerable to grievance-industry plunder, extortion and terrorist harassment. “These government departments simply ganged up on me,” says Titford.
The Insane Had Taken Over the Asylum
With the advent of the Waitangi Tribunal, the meaning of New Zealand's Treaty of Waitangi was reinvented, along with much of our colonial history, and the Tribunal became the crooked arena where patently fraudulent cases could be won by the blatant rewrite and distortion of known historical facts.
Dr John Robinson’s recent book, Corruption of New Zealand Democracy — A Treaty Overview describes how he was forced by a Tribunal related body to change his research findings on the cause of 19th century Maori depopulation. He states:
“I was ordered to emphasise a catastrophic social experience that was contrary to the data.”
In other words, to come up with diabolical conclusions that could be blamed on Europeans, for which substantial monetary compensation would be sought in redress.
Funding his research was the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, which supplies Maori claimants with the money they need to research claims that are to be presented before the Waitangi Tribunal. The client was the Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit at Victoria University. He goes on to state:
“Considerable sums are spent on employing academics and researchers to write reports supporting claims before the Waitangi Tribunal. The Crown Forestry Rental Trust assists Maori to prepare, present and negotiate claims against the Crown, including funding research that is required to support the claimant’s argument. Total assistance from the Trust to claimants in 2010 was $34.5 million. This is seriously big money and has a considerable impact on the direction of research into Maori history…”
Former Waitangi Tribunal historian Dr Giselle Byrnes made a similar complaint in her book, The Waitangi Tribunal and New Zealand History. She intimated how historians are reduced to a level akin to lawyers working for clients - and the clients have expectations to win a case.
“In such a situation 'inconvenient' material, not helpful to the paying client's case, can be omitted or de-emphasised, whereas otherwise insignificant points can be embellished out of all proportion if that is considered fruitful.”
Te Roroa had been soundly defeated and dispossessed in battles or skirmishes that raged since Rori's invasion of Waimamaku of about 1795, and had continuously lost ground for over a quarter of a century, to a point where they had no ancestral lands in their possession south of Wairau that they could call their own or even defend. So how could they put in a claim against the Crown on Titford’s freehold title?