The people of Ngāti Kahungunu are elated by this weekend's signing of an agreement in principle to settle Treaty claims, a negotiator and trustee says.
The signing of an agreement in principle to settle a Wairarapa iwi claim is being called one of the most important days in its history.
The agreement, signed yesterday, will see the government pay Ngāti Kahungunu in the Wairarapa and Tāmaki Nui-ā-Rua regions $93 million.
It includes an apology and the opportunity to purchase some government-owned properties in Wairarapa.
The iwi first lodged its Treaty claim in 1989.
The Ngāti Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa-Tāmaki Nui ā Rua Trust was set up in 2010 to represent the claimants in negotiations with the crown.
Trustee and negotiator for the iwi Robin Potangaroa said more than 400 people had packed into Dannevirke town hall to put their name to the agreement.
"I'd have to say to you quite honestly this is the biggest day Dannevirke has seen and probably will see for a long, long time.
"Today was probably one of the most important days in our tribal history, coming to an agreement in principle with the crown, because our people have decided that they want to move forward in treaty settlement and they've given the A-OK and they all agreed by signing on the document, same as us negotiators."
- 1989: First Claim lodged
- 1994: Gathering of Historical Evidence for Tribunal Hearings begins
- 2004-2005: Waitangi Tribunal Hearings
- June 2010: Waitangi Tribunal Report released
- October 2012: Crown recognised Deed of Mandate
- July 2013: Signed Terms of Negotiation with the Crown
- December 2015: Cabinet consider Agreement in Principle Package
- April 2016: Seek ratification of Agreement in Principle
- 7 May 2016: Sign Agreement in Principle
Still to come (approx dates based on Trust's estimates):
- March 2017: Sign Deed of Settlement
- June 2017: Settlement legislation introduced to Parliament
- January 2018: Settlement Date
He said the feeling in the hall was one of elation, and while there was a sense of loss that some had passed away before the claim reached this point, most importantly people were united in wanting to move on.
"The most important thing today is that when our people signed, there are those of us who already know that there'll be a number of our kaumātua who won't be there for our deed of settlement.
"And that was our negotiators' wish that our old people signed, all of our people signed, our children signed who came because there may be some of us who may not be there at deed of settlement."
"I think our people were genuinely very happy to be part of that process, some people were amazed."
Mr Potangaroa said the day was complemented with a big kai hakar, or feast, with crayfish galore, paua and hangi.
"I think if you were here today and you could watched the crown minister look in a hall where there are 400 Maori singing in unison and agreeing that it's time to move forward - I think he's a happy man.
He said the agreement wasn't just about the $93 million.
"It's not only about the amount, it's actually about the cultural redress that the crown has offered and quite frankly what the crown has offered is pretty much spectacular.
"For us as a people, they've given us the right to have the lake Wairarapa gifted back to us as Māori, it's a huge thing.
"And there's about 21 cultural properties also to come back. Our cultural package is at least half the value of our commercial package."
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said the agreement was a step in settling historical treaty claims with the iwi.
"This agreement provides a basis for the Crown and the iwi to develop a detailed deed of settlement.
There are 19 Crown-owned sites which will be vested with the iwi, which will also jointly manage Lake Wairarapa with Greater Wellington Regional Council.