Former Chairman of the trust, Tamaoho Waaka Vercoe (BCA, JP) notes the following personal experiences about our trust lands,
"As a youth Omataroa block was our hunting ground for wild pigs and wild deer, a very important supplement to the food supplies for all of the families who lived at TeTeko. I often asked our uncles whom we accompanied on such hunting trips "Na wai tenei whenua?" (Who owns this land), and their reply was "Na tatou" (It is ours). My next question was "Pehea i mau tonu mai ai ki a tatou?"(How did we manage to retain these lands) and their reply was "He ururoa hoki no tenei whenua, kahore i pirangitia e te Pakeha" (It was wild untamed land (ururoa) and therefore not wanted by the pakeha settlers".
Later two local pakeha farmers applied to the Maori Land Court to lease the land for "One shilling (10cents) per acre per annum" and, as no objections were made the Maori Land Court approved the lease. However my late father Te Maketu heard about the lease and he along with our neighbours, Tata Maui Ngoungou and Tame (Tom) Waikato lodged an appeal with the Maori Land Court. According to my father, Tata and Tom gave him ten pounds ($20) each and he funded the rest of the costs of around five hundred pounds ($1,000). The appeal was unsuccessful as the Court process was properly conducted and there were no valid grounds to justify a cancellation of the lease. However the learned judge the late Judge Gillanders-Scott imposed a requirement that the lessees fence the boundary of the leased lands and the high cost of such a fence made the lease impractical and forced the lessees to withdraw and cancel their lease.
Later the block attracted Caxton Paper Company for forestry purposes and the rest is history. From memory the original Caxton lease was for 18 years at nine thousand pounds ($18,000) per annum and thereafter it was renewable at 10 year intervals with rent for each ten year interval based on 10 per cent of the current land government land value. I can recall attending my first AGM at Taiwhakaea marae, Paroa which was attended by my father and around five or six of his mates who sat around telling jokes to each other. On our journey back to TeTeko my father said to me, "E hoa, he waimarie koe kua eke koe hei kaitiaki" (You are fortunate to be appointed as a trustee"). To my surprised exclamation, he said "Koia na hoki to mate, kahore koe e whakarongo ana ki nga korero a o koroua" (That is the trouble with you, you do not listen to what your elders are saying). It turned out that one of the existing trustees was the trust lawyer from Whakatane, and, in one of the yarns that I did not listen to with due care I was nominated using the phrase "Ko ia hei tu ki te turanga a Pita" (the lawyers first name- Peter) and they all laughed. I realized later that they were laughing ("smiling") at the savings in legal fees, which I conceded was quite humorous, as trustees were all unpaid in those early days.
Sadly, all of those elders have now passed on, but of course the legacy that they left us is here for all of us to enjoy and to share the benefits with all of our descendants. "E tino nama nei tatou katoa ki a ratou" (We remain deeply indebted to them all).
No reira, e moe, e moe, moe marie mai koutou katoa, (may you all rest peacefully).