Settlement deals put iwi in line to buy

Settlements struck with iwi in Taranaki at the weekend have pushed the value of deals in the province to more than $325 million.

Te Atiawa, Ngaruahine and Taranaki iwi signed agreements which offered them financial redress of $87m, $67.5m and $70m respectively.

The settlement packages also included the right to buy Crown properties and the vesting of culturally significant sites such as Nga Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands to Taranaki iwi and Te Atiawa and the transfer of the Waitara Endowment Lands to Te Atiawa.

In each case an agreement in principle has been reached and the iwi will now canvass members.

The Ngaruahine settlement package includes a quantum offer of $67.5m, property vestings from the Department of Conservation and the South Taranaki District Council and an opportunity to explore further vestings from the Office of Treaty Settlements.

The Daily News could not reach Taranaki iwi representatives for comment yesterday.

Nga Hapu o Ngaruahine Iwi executive chairwoman Tihi Daisy Noble said the properties up for negotiation for Ngaruahine included the Manaia and Kaipi conservation areas, and the site of the Te Ngutu o te Manu battle and historic reserve on Ahipaipa Rd, a site of significance to the tribe.

But most properties on offer were either reserves or domains and Ngaruahine gaining ownership would not change their accessibility to the public, she said.

"The legislation takes precedence over ownership. If we are successful in acquiring those properties, the public interest could not be removed."

The iwi would review the properties up for negotiation to determine whether they were worth the investment, she said.

"There is very little Crown land in Ngaruahine, the only ones available are schools and they are very run down. We did not want to buy a property that would take a huge cost to bring it back to its former glory."

The settlement was not about excluding people, but trying to replace some of the tribe's identity that was stamped out in the land confiscations. "It's about putting our footprints back onto the landscape. We've come alive again, we are a people in our own right."

Ngaruahine had created a 25-year strategic plan in 2008 which laid out political, cultural, social and financial goals the iwi hoped to achieve using the settlement, she said.

"Prior to the offer we already knew where we wanted to be placed by 2034. The settlement is one of the things to help us achieve those goals."

Ngaruahine had very good advisers and had been able to "look over the hedge" at other iwi that had already settled to see what had worked and what had not.

Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson said the agreements were a significant milestone toward resolving injustices of the past and would form the basis for deeds of settlement to be signed in the near future.

"This is an important step towards settling the complex and serious historical Treaty claims in the Taranaki region," he said.

The three iwi will work towards finalising a deed of settlement which would then be ratified by iwi members and initialled midway through next year.

Taranaki Daily News