It was a day of sadness and reflection, but also a time of hope for the future as Ngati Koata settled its historic grievances with the Crown.
The top of the south iwi signed the deed of settlement on its Treaty of Waitangi claim at Whakatu Marae in Nelson yesterday.
Te Atiawa o Te Waka-a-Maui also signed its deed of settlement at Picton's Waikawa Marae yesterday.
Both iwi received an apology from the Crown yesterday, which acknowledged that its actions had resulted in the iwi suffering greatly and being alienated from their land. The Crown said it hoped its apology and redress package would mark new relationships with both iwi.
Ngati Koata kuia Priscilla Paul said yesterday was a "wonderful day" of mixed emotions.
She was sad that the compensation the iwi had received in no way reflected the amount it had lost, but she was pleased that the long process of negotiation had come to an end.
She and her sister Lovey Gieger were founding members of the Ngati Koata Trust.
Eparaima Hippolite, 77, said the day was "big".
"I have been crying a lot."
Tearatangata Kotua, 80, said the day was "something we have been waiting for, for a long time".
Ngati Koata Trust chair Jeanette Grace said the signing was a momentous occasion in what had been a long and arduous process.
"On this day, we honour the memory of the tupuna [forebears] who walked this journey before us, we honour our kaumatua, and we thank those who have worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome.
"It represents a new beginning for our iwi. We can lay grievances to rest and focus on growth and development."
Claims negotiator Roma Hippolite paid tribute to all the iwi members, past and present, who had made yesterday possible.
He said that 17 years ago tomorrow, the Ngati Koata Trust filed its statement of claim. Ngati Koata had suffered many grievances at the hands of the Crown.
"They are well documented, and it is good that the Crown has acknowledged that it failed to treat us as equal citizens.
"The settlement of Ngati Koata claims, along with those of other iwi in the top of the South Island, would be beneficial to the entire community.
"We are excited. Today, we celebrate a significant milestone. Today, we remember the pain of our tupuna. Tomorrow, we go back to work."
Mr Hippolite said the media would make much of the financial settlement, but "the real story is our people have generously accepted a settlement which is 2 to 3 per cent of our loss".
He said Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson was as "caring and fair" as a politician could be.
Mr Finlayson said he was tempted to say "hallelujah", but it was a formal occasion.
He said negotiations in the top of the south were complicated due to the eight iwi with claims to the area.
He said that in 1840, when the Crown signed the Treaty with Ngati Koata, it entered into a relationship based on hope and mutual respect, but the Crown had not always fulfilled its obligations, and it apologised for this.
The Crown's actions had left Ngati Koata virtually landless and alienated from most of its sacred sites. Being marginalised from the economic development of the top of the south had devastating consequences on the iwi's social, cultural and spiritual wellbeing.
The apology to Te Atiawa said the Crown profoundly regretted and apologised for its actions which left the iwi virtually landless in Te Tau Ihu (the top of the south). It had failed to respect the iwi's rangatiratanga, and its actions had undermined the iwi's social and traditional structures, and its autonomy and ability to exercise its customary rights and responsibilities.
"Today, we have signed settlements with two iwi in the complex top of the South Island region. It shows that Crown and iwi, working together, can resolve historical grievances and build an economic platform that benefits iwi and the wider community," Mr Finlayson said.
The deeds now need to be passed as legislation, to be introduced next year.
Cultural and financial redress to Ngati Koata Vesting of eight sites of cultural and spiritual significance, and cultural redress instruments. Financial and commercial redress of $11.76 million. Ngati Koata Trust has elected to buy 9080 hectares of Crown forest licensed land and Maitai School, Nayland College, the Stoke community police station and the Department of Conservation Renwick area office on settlement. The right of deferred selection for three years of another 16 Crown-owned properties. First refusal for 169 years over a number of Housing NZ properties. First refusal for 100 years over other core Crown properties. Cultural redress, including recognition of the strong association Ngati Koata have with Rangitoto ki te Tonga/D'Urville Island, Takapourewa/Stephens Island, Whakaterepapanui Island and French Pass. Cultural and financial redress to Te Atiawa Valued at $20 million, with a cash component of $11.3 million. 100 per cent ownership of the Queen Charlotte Forest in Tory Channel, excluding 16ha. Rai Valley Forest from Havelock to Whangamoa. Golden Downs West 14 Forest. 50 per cent of the upper Motueka West 11 Forest. 50 per cent of the Golden Downs 12 Forest. 33.3 per cent of the Motueka 16 and 17 forests. This land has a total value of approximately $6 million. Te Atiawa has elected to buy Nelson's Army Drill Hall, the Picton police station, the Motueka Department of Conservation building, and Golden Bay High School shared 50 per cent with Ngati Tama. Cultural redress: Kaitiaki (guardianship) of Queen Charlotte Sound conservation. The Crown will acknowledge Te Atiawa values over other sites.
- The Marlborough Express