Treaty settlements totalling about $370 million will bring "a formidable addition to the capital pool" available for investment in Hawke's Bay, says the head of one of the largest settlement groups.
David Tipene-Leach, the chairman of He Toa Takitini, says his group's vision is to become a "major investor in our regional economy" using the $100 million-plus Crown settlement it is due to begin receiving from next year.
He Toa Takitini represents the people of Heretaunga-Tamatea and is one of six settlement organisations representing groupings across the Ngati Kahungunu rohe, stretching from north of Wairoa to the bottom of the North Island's east coast.
Dr Tipene-Leach told Hastings District councillors last week his group's Treaty of Waitangi settlement was likely to be the country's fourth or fifth largest settlement.
Only settlements reached with South Island tribe Ngai Tahu ($170 million), Waikato Tainui ($170 million), Tuhoe ($169 million) and possibly Nga Puhi in Northland (which is yet to be settled) would top the HTT settlement.
Settlements with the six Ngati Kahungunu claimant groups were expected to total about $370 million once they were all finalised, Dr Tipene-Leach said.
HTT signed an agreement-in-principle relating to its settlement in June this year. Negotiations are continuing and legislation finalising the settlement is expected to be passed in June 2016.
However, "on account" payments of $5 million for marae developments, te reo, education and environmental initiatives will be made available next year.
HTT also has an option to take a $20 million stake in the Ruataniwha water storage scheme, if the project goes ahead.
The agreement includes a "vesting and gift-back" clause which will see tangata whenua take ownership of a small area of reserve land at Cape Kidnappers, including the site of the gannet colony. HTT will gift the land back to the nation after a few days.
The deal includes other parcels of Crown land and records Heretaunga-Tamatea's desire for Clive and Hastings to be renamed Waipureku and Heretaunga respectively. However, it also acknowledges that the proposed name changes need to be "explored" with the Geographic Board and are outside the treaty settlement negotiations process.
Dr Tipene-Leach said few people knew about English statesman Warren Hastings, after whom the city was named, whereas Heretaunga was the long-standing name for the plains surrounding it.
"It would be very interesting to have the Heretaunga District Council, nevertheless we won't go there today," he told councillors.
He said the region's treaty settlements represented "probably the largest single input of capital and authority we will see certainly in this decade, if not two or three decades coming".
"For so long our maraes have been dependent on sausage sizzles and cake stalls and that is no longer going to be the way that things work."
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said there were "wonderful economic opportunities and synergies" the council and HTT could work on together.
Undecided on dam
He Toa Takitini's in-principle treaty settlement agreement includes the option for Heretaunga-Tamatea Maori to take a $20 million stake in the Ruataniwha water storage scheme.
But the group is divided over whether to take up the investment if the controversial Central Hawke's Bay irrigation project goes ahead.
HTT chairman David Tipene-Leach told a Hastings District Council meeting last week that working to improve water quality in the region was a key priority for his organisation.
"Given that we are also very interested in economic development, you can imagine that we are in the same place as everybody else trying to balance those two things, particularly with the present kafuffle that is happening around the Ruataniwha water storage scheme," he said. "He Toa Takitini, its members and the Maori community of Hawke's Bay are almost as divided as the non-Maori community about the dam."
Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana has called the Ruataniwha dam a "dangerous investment".