History, the heavens and prayers fused perfectly at Pyes Pa yesterday when Tauranga Moana tribe Ngati Ranginui embarked on a new journey into the future.
Instead of forecast heavy rain putting a dampener on the settlement of treaty claims, the sun shone brilliantly on an occasion that at times was almost electric with emotion.
It was the answer to the prayers of Ngati Ranginui elder Colin Bidois, who was anxious that nothing hindered the hugely significant setting for the signing of the iwi's $39million settlement with the Crown - the Te Ranga battlefield.
Mr Bidois reflected the views of many kaumatua when he said they were coming out of a long tunnel, the job had been done and now was the time to pass the baton to the next generation.
The first drops of rain fell after the deed had been signed and speeches concluded - just as everyone began to disperse to the Hairini Marae for the banquet. June 21 was deliberately chosen as the date of settlement because it was 148 years to the day since the infamous battle when colonial troops sprang a surprise attack on Maori forces at Te Ranga, massacring them and unleashing events that left the tribe landless and dispossessed.
In a remarkable coincidence, yesterday was also the first day of Matariki, the Maori New Year, when the appearance of the Matariki star cluster in the night sky and the sighting of the next new moon marked the start of a festival celebrated as a time of remembrance and new beginnings.
"Now we are looking at a new future," the chairman of the iwi's negotiating team, Antoine Coffin, said during his closing speech to ceremonies that lasted nearly six hours.
The significance of Matariki and the clear skies was a talking point among many of the estimated 1000 people who gathered at Te Ranga. Many queued to put their signatures to the agreement BUILDING UP: Local Maori welcome the Maori king, at the Ngati Ranginui hapu's treaty settlement, held at the Te Ranga battleground.
The exact text of the Crown apology delivered to Ngati Ranginui hapu (subtribes) yesterday by the Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson:
"An important part of the settlement is the Crown apology.
The Crown makes this apology to Ngati Te Wai, Pirirakau, Ngati Taka, the Wairoa hapu of Ngati Rangi, Ngati Pango, and Ngati Kahu, Ngati Hangarau, Ngai Tamarawaho, Ngai Te Ahi and Ngati Ruahine, the hapu of Ngati Ranginui, to your tupuna and to your descendants.
The Crown unreservedly apologises for not having honoured its obligations to the hapu of Ngati Ranginui under the Treaty of Waitangi, and profoundly regrets its failure to appropriately acknowledge the mana and rangatiratanga of Ngati Ranginui for many generations.
The relationship between Ngati Ranginui and the Crown, which should have been defined by the mutual respect and partnership inherent in the Treaty of Waitangi, was instead blighted by the injustices of war, raupatu, the bush campaign, and the severe deprivation that flowed from these Crown actions. The Crown apologises for its actions and the burden carried by generations of Ngati Ranginui who have suffered the consequences of war and raupatu which they continue to feel today.
The Crown deeply regrets that over time its actions severed Ngati Ranginui hapu from their traditional lands, deprived them of opportunities for development, caused significant harm to the social and economic development of the Ngati Ranginui, undermined the wellbeing of the iwi and its hapu, damaged their autonomy and ability to exercise customary rights and responsibilities, and marginalised them within their own rohe.
Through this apology the Crown seeks atonement for the wrongs of the past and to establish a new relationship with the hapu of Ngati Ranginui based upon mutual trust, co-operation, and respect for the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles."
* Footnote: The settlement was unique because it was the first treaty settlement in which properties, cash and commercial rights were transferred to individual hapu rather than the umbrella iwi organisation.