History was made when a South Taranaki iwi signed its long-awaited treaty settlement yesterday.
Applause, waiata and a haka followed as Ngaruahine's chief negotiator Daisy Noble joined Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson at the top table to sign off on the $67.5 million deal, four years after negotiations between the two groups began.
More than 500 people, including school groups, were on hand to witness the historic occasion which was held at Te Ngutu o Te Manu reserve in Okaiawa.
After a full powhiri and karakia, Finlayson acknowledged the hard work put in by all those involved, including Noble and the negotiating team.
He said Ngaruahine's settlement provided a "significant platform" to allow the iwi to achieve goals it had set for itself and it also represented a new chapter in the iwi and Crown's relationship.
"It's one of mutual trust and co-operation and one of respect for the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles," he said.
Along with the cash, the deal includes a Crown acknowledgement of wrongdoing, the return of cultural properties to the iwi, a cultural fund worth $661,000, the deferred ability to buy 12 Crown properties, for up to two years, and the ability to buy specific council-owned properties for up to five years after the settlement date.
Included in the day's programme was also the symbolic handing over of Te Ngutu o Te Manu reserve by South Taranaki District Mayor Ross Dunlop. A statement of commitment between the council and iwi was also signed.
A formal apology is also part of the treaty deal but will be officially delivered at a later date in the South Island, as a way to recognise Ngaruahine iwi who were taken prisoner and sent there. A date and place has yet to be confirmed.
Following the minister's speech, Noble also thanked the people who had helped get the deal to this point.
"Today, we made it," she said.
Although the day was one of mixed emotions, the feelings had been heightened by the ceremony being held at Te Ngutu o Te Manu.
"It is a place that defined us as a people," she said.
In his speech, Dunlop said he was humbled by the opportunity to be part of the day.
He said the decision to hand back the reserve to iwi was supported whole-heartedly by his council.
"We knew it was the right thing to do."
Along with a contingent from the council, including chief executive Craig Stevenson, New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and Government Ministers Chester Borrows and Tariana Turia were also present along with chief Treaty negotiator Rick Barker.
Ngaruahine's treaty deal was approved for sign off after ratification of the settlement by registered iwi members - 90 per cent of whom supported the move in the July vote.
The next step will be the introduction of a bill to Parliament to enable the deal to be implemented. This process can take one to two years.
- Taranaki Daily News
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