Ngati Toa finally gain recompense

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2014
Tiratu Williams
MAARTEN HOLL/ Fairfax NZ

POIGNANT VICTORY: Tiratu Williams says it will be hard to celebrate today’s handover of $70 million in assets, knowing that the kaumatua who made the original claim are no longer around.

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The conclusion of Ngati Toa's multimillion-dollar Treaty of Waitangi claim will be celebrated next week with a quiz night, mini-Olympics, a ping-pong battle and plenty of kai. But for Tiratu Williams, it's hard not to feel sad.

The 74-year-old grandmother is the only surviving member of the 14-strong group that first made the claim on behalf of the Cook Strait iwi in 1986, resulting in the transfer of roughly $70 million in assets today.

When Williams, of Hongoeka, near Plimmerton, was first asked to join the claim, alongside kaumatua she had long looked up to, she did not know why - but it later became clear. "I think they had foresight, they saw they weren't going to make it. And I can't really celebrate that."

She considers herself privileged to have been a part of the journey, despite how difficult it was. The most important part for her was setting the historical record straight - and she wants those corrected stories, and those of other iwi, taught in schools.

"Until we, as a country, acknowledge the colonial history and treat it as history, we'll always have trouble."

Runanga executive director Matiu Rei said it was good to have the deal done and dusted, but it was almost an anti-climax after a buildup of nearly 30 years.

And the transfer of assets would not see a sudden flurry of activity, he said. "Certainly it'll make a difference, because it'll draw to a conclusion the historical claim. That's one of the things I have been focused on for 20 years, and now it's looking at what we can build further.

"But in the meantime we haven't sat on our bums just working on the claims, we've been going about building opportunities and businesses for the tribe. We've been reasonably successful in that."

One of the first steps will be to buy back nearly 35,000 hectares of forest land in the Marlborough Sounds. The iwi will part with $24m, but will also get $31m from the Crown in accumulated rents.

There are dozens of other pieces of land or property the iwi will have the opportunity to buy, but in each case they would need to consider whether it was a good buy, Rei said.

WHAT NGATI TOA GETS

 - A Crown apology and acknowledgement of Treaty of Waitangi breaches, including the detention of Te Rauparaha and alienation of land rights.

 - $70.61 million, which can be used to buy back Crown property, the first of which will be 35,000 hectares of forest land in the Marlborough Sounds.

 - The opportunity to buy back 42ha at the former site of Kenepuru Hospital, 67 schools across the region, Arohata and Rimutaka prisons, district courthouses at Porirua, Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt, police stations at Wellington Central, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, Porirua, Johnsonville and Richmond, Lower Hutt fire station, the police college in Papakowhai, the former CIT site at Heretaunga, and the Paekakariki Holiday Park.

 - The iwi has between two and 10 years to decide whether or not it will buy the land or property, and in some cases – such as schools – it would be on the condition they were leased back to the Crown Kapiti Island and Mana Island, though most of the land would be gifted back to the Crown; Taputeranga in Island Bay; Queen Elizabeth II Park; 6ha of Whitireia Park; and several sites in the Marlborough Sounds.

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 - Place-names changes, including Rangituhi instead of Colonial Knob, Te Awarua-o-Porirua for the harbour, and Totaranui for Queen Charlotte Sound. Special legislation acknowledging Te Rauparaha as composer of the Ka Mate haka, and the iwi's intellectual property rights over the haka. 

- The Dominion Post

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