Marlborough to host national iwi gathering

Rangitane's convention centre, Ukaipo, in Grovetown.
JIM TANNOCK

Rangitane's convention centre, Ukaipo, in Grovetown.

A national gathering of iwi chairmen and chairwomen will be taking place in Marlborough for the first time next month. 

In late November and early December, iwi leaders and their teams from around New Zealand will come to Blenheim for the three-day gathering, which occurs four times a year. 

Ngati Toa Rangatira chairman Taku Parai, head of Te Waka a Maui working group, said Marlborough's eight tribes were "rapt" to be hosting the gathering. 

"This is a significant and important event for the eight iwi of Te Tau Ihu," he said. 

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At every "Iwi Chairs' Forum" invitations were extended to special guests, and government ministers were generally invited. It was not known if the Maori King would be attending. 

Up to 180 people in total were expected at the event, which would begin on November 30. 

"It is a huge opportunity for us to manaaki [care for] the largest formal gathering of iwi leaders ever seen in this region, and to showcase Marlborough as a tourism and investment destination," Parai said. 

The meeting was a serious forum to discuss how to respond to Crown issues and would also give iwi leaders the chance to network and discuss issues going on in their area that might be of interest and relevance to other iwi. 

Executive teams from around the country would be attending as well. 

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The forums had been running since 2005, with the first forum convened at Takahanga Marae in Kaikoura. The last gathering was held in Waikato. 

The guest list and agenda were still being put together, and were being organised by the Te Waka a Maui working group and the national forum secretariat. 

Rangitane chairwoman Tarina MacDonald said it was a "great honour" to have the iwi leaders come to Marlborough and a terrific opportunity for them. 

"For a number of them it will be the first time they've ever been here," she said. 

It was also a good opportunity for the wider community to look at ways to promote and support the visit. 

The business community would have an opportunity to link into the wider Maori economy, which was worth more than $40 billion. 

"Some of the people that are the movers and shakers of that economy are going to be there for three days," she said. 

Issues such as aquaculture, settlements and justice would be discussed, and workshops would be held for iwi support staff, MacDonald said. 

Most of the events were expected to be held in Rangitane's convention centre, Ukaipo, in Grovetown.

Tours of the region were also being organised. 

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager Stephen Gullery said iwi members had already spoken to the chamber about putting iwi leaders in touch with local businesses. 

"We are looking forward to assisting wherever we can to make the event a success," he said. 

The iwi had considered approaching the Marlborough District Council to host a civic event. 

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said the iwi leaders' forum was a good opportunity to showcase the region.

While he did not know how the council would fit into the forum schedule, the council would definitely like to get involved if it could. 

 - The Marlborough Express

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