South Taranaki iwi Ngaruahine took a step closer to sealing their settlement with the Crown following a ceremony in Wellington yesterday morning.
The deed of settlement, worth $67.5 million, was formally initialled in front of about 100 supporters, following a formal powhiri and speeches.
Ngaruahine's northern counterpart, Te Atiawa, also initialled their settlement yesterday afternoon for a deal worth about $91m.
Ngaruahine chief negotiator Daisy Noble said the day was historically significant, and although the process had not been easy, it was a real milestone for them.
"We have navigated our way through uncharted waters to get to where we are today," she said.
She said the deal represented years of hard work and commitment from a dedicated group of people, including Pue Whakaruru, who died in March and kaumatua Ron "Rocky" Hudson, who had travelled to Wellington with a 30-strong contingent from South Taranaki.
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson praised the efforts of Noble and her team during his speech.
"Thank you very much for your part in this journey," he said.
Finlayson said Ngaruahine has picked up the challenge set by the Government and the proposed deal, which now required ratification by iwi members, represented more than just money.
"This is not just a commercial deal, it's much more than that, it's dealing with some of the real wrongs," he said.
New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young said he felt privileged to be on hand to witness both ceremonies.
"This is a moment in history which hopefully becomes a fresh beginning for Ngaruahine and Te Atiawa," Young said.
He said the settlements had potential to be positive for the entire Taranaki region.
"If they go forward and succeed, it's not only going to be good for them but for Taranaki," he said.
Nga Hapu o Ngaruahine Iwi Inc chairman Omahuru Robinson said he was happy to be able to "bring the settlement home" to its members. "Now the next step is to ratify it among our people," he said.
He said he was confident this would happen, despite some internal issues which remained within the iwi.
"It's about working past those mental blocks and looking to the future."
Robinson said the iwi had already developed a vision based on political, economic, social and cultural goals for future generations. "We're aiming for 2034 and beyond," he said.
If ratified Ngaruahine's deal will be formally signed off on August 1. Te Atiawa will follow a week later on August 9.
- Taranaki Daily News
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