The Crown profoundly regretted economically handicapping Te Atiawa through unfair property deals that left the iwi "virtually landless" after 1840, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said on Friday.
Mr Finlayson signed a deed of settlement worth $20 million on behalf of the Crown with Te Atiawa Manawhenua ki Te Tau Ihu Trust chairwoman Glenice Paine, Kaikoura MP Colin King and iwi members at Waikawa Marae on Friday afternoon.
The Crown apology was part of the settlement package to the iwi in response to their Wai 607 claim for grievances caused by the Crown after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
Mr Finlayson said the Crown expressed "profound regrets" for its past actions toward the iwi.
He spoke of the injustices committed by the governing power after the signing that involved unfairly granting the New Zealand Company ownership of Te Atiawa land, which left the iwi "virtually landless" and in "economic hardship".
He apologised for the Crown putting pressure on the iwi to give up land ownership across the top of the South Island, including shifting the iwi on to "inadequate" reserve land.
"The Crown wants to acknowledge that its actions have breached the Treaty of Waitangi."
The Crown's actions "undermined" the economic and cultural development of the iwi and it "unreservedly apologises for these wrongs".
Part of the "cultural redress package" included renaming Arapawa Island to Arapaoa Island, Riwaka River to Riuwaka River and Tory Channel to Tory Channel/Kura Te Au.
The Crown recognised the role of Te Atiawa as kaitiaki, guardians, over the coastal marine area in Queen Charlotte Sound/Totaranui and the iwi will create a plan setting out its values for the Marlborough District Council to treat as a planning document under the Resource Management Act.
It will offer advice and expertise to Te Atiawa to undertake a scoping study on options to raise the quality of Waikawa Bay to standards such as making it suitable for bathing or gathering shellfish.
He said the settlement would restore the Crown's honour.
Mrs Paine said the battle for the settlement began in 1996 and the years of negotiations and litigation had been an "exhausting" process.
"The grievances we have can never be fully compensated but the package is what it is and now we are moving on.
"There were a lot of things that were outside our power, but now it's over and done with and we can start to create our future."
The settlement would allow the iwi to work with others from the top of the south.
Te Atiawa Manawhenua ki Te Tau Ihu kaumatua Joe Puketapu told Mr Finlayson and others who filled the marae in Picton that it was up to the iwi to build new relationships with the Crown and other iwi.
Te Atiawa Manawhenua ki Te Tau Ihu kaumatua Joe Puketapu:
"I did not come here to thank the Crown for anything, I have come here in the knowledge that the Crown was part of the deal.
"Te Atiawa are now ready to move on from the grievance and our focus is on building a better future with the Crown and other iwi for our children.
"We no longer wish to fight with the Crown, we wish to work alongside it in a way that's successful – we only want what our people deserve.
"We are all part of the bigger picture that's going to happen in the future."
- The Marlborough Express