Preparations are under way for the formal signing of Ngaruahine's historic treaty settlement as the voting deadline looms this Friday.
Chief negotiator Daisy Noble said indications provided to her two weeks ago indicated about 500 of the 2000 eligible members had already had their say on the fate of $67.5 million deal since voting began on June 20. Based on those results, she said, a response rate of over 60 per cent was predicted by the time the voting period ended this week.
Ngaruahine has 3500 registered members but only those over 18 years of age are eligible to vote.
Noble said there had been a positive response from those who attended the six ratification hui held around New Zealand to discuss the deal in the past weeks, with the biggest turnout in Hawera on June 28.
As well as discussing the deal itself, a five-year plan and a longer term vision developed by the iwi authority were also presented.
"It's really important for you to go on the road with some aspirations" she said.
The deal includes a series of Crown acknowledgments and an official apology, a cultural fund worth $661,000 and a return of culturally important properties, including Te Ngutu o Te Manu Reserve.
The reserve, located in Okaiawa, is not only historically important to the iwi but will also be the venue for the formal signing ceremony scheduled for August 1.
She said once the settlement was signed, a focus on building capacity within the iwi will begin in earnest. One objective which she would like to see achieved in the first five years after settlement is the upgrading of all nine of the iwi's marae.
"They are our pride and joy, our last bastion," she said.
The signing of the deal also marks the point when the iwi's post settlement governance entity, Te Korowai o Ngaruahine Trust, at present under the chairmanship of Peter Moeahu, begins its work. Elections for the trust board will take place in the coming months.
For Noble, who is not seeking a place on the trust herself, the biggest achievement through the negotiating phase had been the relationships developed between the iwi and the Crown as well as the South Taranaki District Council since the settlement process began in 2010.
"The relationships are what will endure," she said.
And although aware of people within Ngaruahine who are still not happy with the treaty deal, she felt their views had been fairly acknowledged over the years.
She said the only way now for iwi members to be heard on the issue was for them to decide which box to tick.
Provisional voting results should be available by Friday afternoon.
Once voting is completed the results are sent to Te Puni Kokiri and the Office of Treaty Settlements. The respective Ministers are then advised if there is sufficient support for the settlement to proceed.
- Taranaki Daily News
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