6 Aug 2016

Wairarapa iwi to settle with Crown

8:10 am on 6 August 2016

A Wairarapa iwi is poised to sign a treaty settlement with the Crown that includes the return of Mt Bruce Reserve .

Kiwi Signpost near Mt. Bruce Native Bird Reserve, Wairarapa,

A Kiwi signpost near Mount Bruce Native Bird Reserve in the Wairarapa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Virtualmv / Creative Commons license 3.0

Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamaki nui ā Rua will sign a deed of settlement today in Dannevirke that includes the return of Mt Bruce, which will then be gifted back to the Crown.

But a group that is part of Rangitāne - but also maintains its own distinct identity - has objected to the terms of the settlement.

The settlement with the two Wairarapa branches of Rangitāne will include financial redress of $32.5 million and the transfer of sites of significance, such as Mt Bruce.

The reserve will be gifted back to the Crown and then managed under a joint agreement with iwi.

Rangitāne leader Manahi Paewai said the loss of land, cultural identity and economic independence was at the heart of the claim.

He said the settlement provided an opportunity to move on.

"The ones that have passed on, it was them that had to cope with the impact of all of that on their daily lives.

"Their hurt is ours as well, but we've got to move on and we're looking forward to that."

Lead Negotiator Jason Kerehi and Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson, initialling the Deed of Settlement.

Lead Negotiator Jason Kerehi and Minister Chris Finlayson initialled the Deed of Settlement in May. Photo: Supplied

Rangitāne negotiator Jason Kerehi said the return of Pukaha Mt Bruce reserve was a key part of the settlement for iwi.

"This is the last remnants left of 1000 hectares of prime forest. It's really significant for us in terms of our relationship with the ngahere (forest), but it's also significant because it pulls Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamaki nui-ā-Rua together."

Mr Kerehi said the experience of previous generations had shaped iwi members current situations.

"The things that we missed out on as an iwi was economic success. We've got a lot of people who are very successful but on the whole we're represented at the other end.

"So this is a real opportunity and that's all it is. This is not going to fix everything and everybody knows that. To me it's a time to draw a line in the sand. Where do we go from here?"

The iwi has about 5000 registered members, with approximately 3000 eligible to vote on the settlement.

Mr Kerehi said of those eligible, less than a quarter voted.

"The return on the vote was around 23 percent of eligible voters and 80 percent of them voted yes. It's not a great turnout by any means.

"Have we done enough? We really tried to push it out in every way we could to our people but that was the result that came back."

Relationship not 'clarified'

However, a group that is part of Rangitāne but also maintains its own distinct identity has objected to the terms of the settlement.

Neavin Broughton of Te Hika a Pāpāuma said their 850 members should have been given a chance to be recognised separately under the terms of the agreement.

"Our issue with Rangitāne is that we feel that the relationship between Rangitāne and Te Hiku a Pāpāuma hasn't been clarified to the point where we're able to actually represent ourselves. And that's what we'd like to do."

However, Mr Kerehi said the negotiators had done everything they could to include members of the iwi.

"It will take time for everyone to come to terms with what we've done as negotiators and it will take time for people to come to terms with what lies ahead. There's opportunity that lies ahead."

The settlement was ratified over a series of seven hui in May and June this year.

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