A ceremonial handing over to Iwi of a valuable block of Wellington land which the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has occupied since the 1800s has taken place this morning.
The Shelly Bay Air Force Base land, on the Miramar peninsula north of the city's international airport, has had a NZDF presence for much of the past 124 years, but closed as an airforce base in the 1990s.
Many buildings there remain largely unused on the 4.5 hectares of land, which is considered prime waterfront property and has been eyed for years by developers and Wellington City Council.
It is one of a number of properties which Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika was allowed to buy back as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement reached with the Crown last August.
Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust chairman Ngatata Love said the iwi had waited a long time for this day, labelling it "another step in our journey – but a key one".
Professor Love said Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika would work with all relevant communities in relation to the future of the block.
"Just this week we signed an accord with the mayor of Wellington and the chair of the Wellington Regional Council to work together in regard to Shelly Bay," he said.
Professor Love said there were no immediate plans to develop Shelly Bay and all options would be considered in due course.
Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae today acknowledged the work NZDF personnel "who've proved worthy custodians of the land over the last century".
"This settlement is now an opportunity for the descendants of Te Atiawa, Taranaki Whanui, Ngati Tama, Ngati Ruanui and Ngati Mutunga to develop a prosperous economic base in the Shelly Bay block," he said.
"It is my hope that it will become a place in which future prosperity can take root."
The formal transfer of the site will happen on Thursday, but stakeholders agreed today's celebration of the occasion was appropriate.