Tribe welcomes end to grievance

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012

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A Waikato River iwi is looking to the future after settling its historical grievances with the Crown in a redress package worth $6.7 million.

Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson apologised to Ngati Koroki-Kahukura at Maungatautari Marae, south of Cambridge, for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi "that left the tribe virtually landless".

The deal includes the purchase of Pukeatua School and its lease back to the Crown. In all, 20 properties totalling 110 hectares will be vested in the iwi.

Ngati Koroki-Kahukura has 3500 registered members and its territory circles Maungatautari mountain from Karapiro in the north to Arapuni in the south.

The Maungatautari ecological island had been a thorn in the side during negotiations but Mr Finlayson said "with sheer determination and good work we have managed to deal with the issues dealt to us."

Trustee for the tribe Karaitiana Tamatea said the apology was an essential step in the iwi's relations with the Crown and was readily accepted.

"With an apology, the Crown have taken responsibility for the unjust past so we are moving toward a just and equitable future."

He said it has been a long road since the claim was first presented and negotiations continued until the last minute.

"The last email was timed in about about 2 o'clock this morning," he said. "But you have to be that way if you are putting something on paper. It's black and white."

The settlement includes financial and commercial redress of $3m but Mr Tamatea said they are focused on building relationships with the wider community and looking after their patch.

"The money is money. I think that has been the downfall of other Treaty settlements. It is not about the money for us. It is about the mana and it's about us being at the right tables making decisions about what affects us in our region."

The deed of settlement transfers ownership of the Maungatautari Mountain Scenic Reserve to the community and will be administered by the Waipa District Council. The Maungatautari ecological island will not be affected.

"It will be looked after," Mr Tamatea said. "We are happy with the situation because there is no-one else better in the whole world than the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust to look after our maunga the way that we do."

"Maori are kaitiaki to the land. Ownership is a totally different concept. We want to keep our mana whenua mindset. Whanaungatanga [relationships] with these people is just as important now and into the future," Mr Tamatea said.

The original claimant, Wally Papa, died in April this year after a long illness but his daughter, Linda Te Aho, said the signing will keep his memory alive.

"It is a little bit sad because he would have been very happy to see the fruits of not only his labour but his ancestor that he saw standing up for their rights.

"He left us knowing we had a good team and we had brought some good young people through, and he knew when he left that he had done a good job in preparing us for what was to come.

"We remember the past but we look forward to different challenges," Mrs Te Aho said. "The conversation is different now. We are not in grievance mode any more, and it feels good."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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