Historical day for Tuwharetoa iwi
It was an historical day for Ngati Tuwharetoa representatives on Tuesday when they gathered at Turangi's Rongomai Marae for the official purchase of 8500 hectares of Crown land as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.
Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Taupo mayor David Trewavas, and Corrections chief executive Ray Smith also attended.
The purchase of the land, valued at $52.7 million, was made by Hautu-Rangipo Whenua Limited (HRWL) which is made up of a Tuwharetoa Settlement Trust subsidiary, two large forestry trusts, three Tuwharetoa farming entities, and a collective entity representing eight hapu.
The sale of the land, which includes around 4000 hectares of timber plantation and encompasses the Tongariro Rangipo Corrections Facility, was agreed upon by the Crown in the 2008 Central North Island Treaty Settlement and was part of the Deferred Settlement Process.
Around 770 hectares is expected to be leased back to the Corrections Department for its ongoing operations and a transaction has also been settled with Sydney forestry investment manger New Forests for a forestry right on the land. This will be managed by Taupo Estate Limited which is managed by the Sydney company.
The purchase agreement also includes changing a portion of farmland to forestry in order to protect Lake Taupo's water quality by reducing nitrate leaching. This work will be carried out alongside the Lake Taupo Protection Trust.
Tuwharetoa Settlement Trust chairman Dylan Tahau said it was a day of celebration for Tuwharetoa.
"It is an important day as you can tell from all the different generations of Tuwharetoa being here," he said.
"It is about the land coming back to us and the opportunity that comes from tomorrow. Those discussions still need to be had within Tuwharetoa but today it is about completing our conversations with the Crown and having the minister with us is very much an honour."
Tahau said the partnerships with the Lake Taupo Protection Trust and New Forests were bringing nothing but positives to Tuwharetoa and the area.
"We have got a celebration on July 15 that will see the end of the immediate arrangement with the Lake Taupo Protection Trust and we will retire some of our farmland in order to fulfil our nitrate agreement. We will need to continue to do the work that has been started and this will be a generational thing," he said.
"The wonderful new relationship with New Forests also means they will look after the forests for us and we will look at other opportunities to work together among the six trusts and the eight hapu that have connections to the property."
He said Tuwharetoa now has to discuss how to reconnect with its land.
"We have been kept out for a long time so we have got some exploration to do to see what exactly has come back. Whether that be streams, rivers, hills, or mountains all those things need to be rediscovered by our people," he said.
"We have got old and young and the main thing is that everyone is collectively looking forward to what can only be a good bright future for us."