Hawke's Bay's economy could be the big beneficiary of a hapu settlement worth $23 million which received its first stamp of approval in Parliament yesterday.
Maungaharuru-Tangitu Incorporation, representing families of three hapu north of Napier, travelled to Wellington to sign a settlement of agreement in principal for its claim with the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson.
The incorporation represented families of Ngati Marangatuhetaua, Ngati Kurumokihi and Ngai Te Ruruku in an area from Waitaha river about 30km northeast of Napier, to the Te Waiohinganga river (Esk river) to the south.
The group's principal claim is around the raupatu, or confiscation of about 110,000ha of land by the Crown in the 1860s and the loss of life associated with the confiscation.
The agreement signed yesterday included vesting part of the bed of Lake Tutira into the ownership of Maungaharuru-Tangitu, as well as 250ha of the state-owned Opouahi Station near Tutira, which has been made available for settlements.
The agreement also allowed the group an option to buy part of the Crown-owned Esk Forest, on the eastern side of the Maungaharuru range, west of Napier.
Maungaharuru-Tangitu deputy chairwoman Tania Hopmans said the next step was for the hapu and the Crown to agree on a Deed of Settlement which would be signed and legislated, a process that could take a few years.
When finalised, it would be up to the hapu to decide how compensation could be invested.
"The hapu will meet and decide how it can achieve the best returns for its people," she said. "It's going to be good for Hawke's Bay as there's a chance that investment could be made back into the community."
The tribunal had to consider the scale of the claim in terms of the historic details of land confiscation, its impacts on the hapu, its population and whether there had been loss of life.
"In our case there was both loss of life and land confiscation which is one of the biggest breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi you could have," Ms Hopmans said.
The tribunal found the Crown acted incorrectly when it grabbed land from the ancestors of Maungaharuru-Tangitu under the 1863 New Zealand Settlement Act.
"What sparked the confiscation was a battle at Omarunui where our hapu and our neighbours, Ngati Hineuru, were attacked by Government forces in 1866," she said.
"They viewed our people as rebels and they were killed. Those who survived were detained and then they were deported to the Chatham Islands without trial, and their land confiscated."
From the original land occupied by the three hapu, only about 3ha remained in Maori ownership.
"For the hapu it's now about moving out of grievance mode and into growth mode and I think this is going to be a good thing for our people and for all of the people of Hawke's Bay," Ms Hopmans said.