Historic settlement for Te Atiawa signed

CALL FOR UNITY: Harry Nicholas, left Chris Finlayson share a hongi after the signing of the settlement.
CALL FOR UNITY: Harry Nicholas, left Chris Finlayson share a hongi after the signing of the settlement.

A call to unity was issued by both the Crown and iwi representatives at Te Atiawa's deed of settlement signing in New Plymouth today.

Despite a short but peaceful protest by members of hapu in opposition to the settlement, it was largely a day of celebration.

''Today is about acknowledging a significant milestone in the history of Te Atiawa. Today is a turning point in the relationship between Te Atiawa, the Crown and the community,'' iwi negotiator Peter Moeahu said.

In his speech Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson acknowledged the demonstrators saying ''it would be sad if everyone had the same opinion".

He also said he had not been involved in a settlement without dissidence, but instead called the iwi to unity.

''I think the best days are ahead for Te Atiawa. The divisions will heal,'' he said.

He then went on to acknowledge in detail the historical failures of the crown admitting he felt ''embarrassed recounting the history".

"But it was with this in mind that we negotiated this package, a package I hope will provide real benefit for the people.''

Finlayson also detailed a heads of agreement between Te Atiawa's PSGE and the New Plymouth District Council that has been signed in relation to the Waitara endowment lands.

''Some people might criticise us for being here today, but what's critical for me is that this sets the iwi up,'' Finlayson said.

He said 77 per cent of those who voted were in favour of the signing but some had called for it to be put off.

The majority vote was enough to see today's signing go ahead and Finlayson said the $87 million settlement, together with the endowment land agreement provided ''a just and durable outcome for Te Atiawa".

''The time for unity is now. I think there's an opportunity to leave discord behind and look to the future,'' he said.

This was the message of the iwi's PSGE chair Liana Poutu who said it was time for a change in focus.

''It isn't about how much money we can make, or how we should spend it, the most important focus is learning to fall in love with each other and ourselves as Te Atiawa,'' she said.

When her speech was finished, dignitaries from both sides were invited to sign the deed, followed by iwi members who wished to add their initials.

The next step will be the introduction of a bill to Parliament to enable the deal to be implemented. 

Taranaki Daily News