A Crown offer of $93 million and almost 20,000 hectares of land - including forestry sites at Ngaumu and the bed of Lake Wairarapa - has been accepted by a faction of Ngati Kahungunu in settlement of their historic Treaty of Waitangi claims.
A ratification vote for the claim of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua was held in the Masterton Town Hall last Saturday at which close to 200 registered descendants had voted by 87 per cent in favour of accepting the offer.
Iwi leaders and the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson will consequently sign an Agreement in Principle document at the Dannevirke Town Hall on Saturday, May 7.
The Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua rohe, or territory, comprises one million hectares spread throughout the wider Wairarapa and Tamaki Nui-a-Rua regions from north of Dannevirke to a point just beyond Cape Turnagain and down to Cape Palliser, also encompassing the entire area east of the Tararua, Ruahine and Rimutaka ranges. Crown actions and omissions since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi had led to the loss of virtually all this tribal territory, the alienation of many Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua descendants from their lands, culture and language, and wreaked "irreparable damage to the rich fabric of hapu and iwi life', according to Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua trustees who had negotiated the settlement.
Trust chairman Ian Perry said the trustees had been on "an arduous journey to reach this point in the settlement process and there was still a long way to go".
Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said he was very satisfied with the agreement.
"I know they've been negotiating for a long time and in the end I think [Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua] and the Crown did very well," he said. "What we've lost over the last 150 years or so is now being reviewed and returned."
As the settlement involved cash and substantive amount of land, Mr Tomoana said: "It's more than a win-win, it's quite a watershed moment in Ngati Kahungunu settlements."
While the Ngati Kahungunu iwi would not receive anything from the settlement, Mr Tomoana said it would enhance the claims of other iwi factions.
"We're really talking turkey in terms of corporate mass, without taking away the independence and autonomy of the individual hapu."
This signalled a greater cohesive investment strategy right across Ngati Kahungunu, which he thought could be worth over a billion dollars in 10 years.
The Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua Trust won Government approval in late 2012 as a settlement entity that would represent people tracing a lineage to the two southern most Kahungunu districts - Wairarapa and Tamaki Nui a Rua. The trust, which is made up of 10 trustees representing nine hapu, were charged with negotiating a fair and enduring settlement, and to found a governance entity approved by the Crown to receive and manage any resources negotiated under the settlement.
Mr Perry said at the time the trust won approval that about 10,000 people had identified with Kahungunu ki Wairarapa during the 2006 census although the actual number of descendants was even greater and would be pinpointed as part of the claims advancement.
"Our tipuna have been protesting the actions of the Crown and fought for these wrongs to be addressed since the 1800s. More recently, we have been fighting for this kaupapa in the Waitangi Tribunal and through the settlement negotiations process for almost 30 years," Mr Perry said.
"Where we have got to today is a testament to the determination of those that began this journey and their commitment to achieving the best possible outcome for our iwi. I pay tribute to them," he said.
"Now that we have reached this important milestone we hope to continue to move forward to complete the rest of the settlement negotiations so that our people can finally receive the benefit of redress that is now long overdue."
The settlement includes a package of financial and commercial redress, and land including the bed of Wairarapa Moana, or Lake Wairarapa, the establishment of the Wairarapa Moana Board, 70 per cent of Ngaumu Forest land, and a range of partnership agreements that "heralds the beginning of a new Treaty relationship placing Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua at the decision-making table with the Crown", Mr Perry said.
"This package in no way compensates for the full extent of suffering endured by Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua," he said.
"However, it creates the platform we need to set us on our feet and to build Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua potential in a way that upholds the mana of our iwi, our papakainga, marae and hapu."