Saturday saw history in the making for the Ngti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tmaki Nui--Rua rohe (territory) as Chris Finlayson, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, apologised for historic grievances, before signing the Treaty of Waitangi agreement in principal in the Dannevirke Town Hall.
More than 400 people packed the hall to share in the emotional celebrations and to put their name to the agreement, with most saying it was the biggest day Dannevirke has seen for a long, long time.
For Dannevirke's Hayden Hape, chairman of Ngati Kahungunu Tamaki Nui A Rua and a member of the settlement negotiation team, Saturday was a day of celebration, a step in the right direction and a day of healing.
"This is a day in Ngti Kahungunu history never to be forgotten," he said. "But we must not forget our Rangatira who fought the hard yards to get us here today. While I was playing on the jungle gym, they were putting in great work on this settlement. Now, with this settlement I hope we can build opportunities to bring our whanau home."
On behalf of the Crown, Mr Finlayson acknowledged the historical redress of the settlement.
"It's very important to record carefully what went wrong, because so much went wrong and the Crown is now apologising for breaches (of the Treaty )," he said. "Signing this agreement in principle makes a crucial step in settling all claims."
Mr Finlayson acknowledged the hard work of the negotiators, particularly that of lead negotiator Ian Perry.
"I also recognise those who are not with us today and not here to witness years and years of settlement.
"This has been a huge undertaking on behalf of those carrying this burden. There's has been a quiet determination to achieve the best possible outcome for your iwi."
Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis was thanked for being "nothing but fully supportive of the settlement process".
And the negotiators were praised for their work in sorting issues between Ngti Kahungunu and Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki Nui--Rua.
"It was a class act for your negotiators in dealing with these issues," Mr Finlayson said. "You talked with Rangitane and I appreciate what your negotiators did."
The minister acknowledged the strength and perseverance of the negotiators.
"You have a tough shell," he said. "There is still work ahead to reach a deed of agreement, but I believe that will be settled this time next year and, while the Crown acknowledges this settlement will never fully compensate for the Treaty breaches, Ngti Kahungunu has suffered, I admire your and Rangitane's work in settling overlapping clauses. You've arrived at sensible and practical solutions," Mr Finlayson said.
Lead negotiator Ian Perry said Saturday was "humbling".
"This is your day, a day for Kahungunu, especially Tmaki Nui--Rua. It's your day to put your signature to this document as our tipuna (ancestors) did 176 years ago when they first signed the Treaty of Waitangi. This marks a historic milestone on the road to settlement - a great occasion. It's been a long process to establish our rights and it is the beginning of a brighter future. This will create a platform to set us on our feet, but we must remember our tipuna who protested the actions of the Crown and fought for these wrongs to be addressed since the 1800s and who have now passed on.
"Our negotiation team is well balanced and solid, but this work has been completed through huge personal sacrifice. This is a very good settlement package and is inter-generational. This is about our children, their children and their children.
"This package in no way compensates for the full extent of suffering endured by Ngti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tmaki Nui Rua. However, it creates the platform we need to build potential in a way that upholds the mana of our iwi, our papakinga, marae and hap."
Agreement in principle for Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki Nui-ā-Rua includes:
- Financial and commercial redress of $93m, and the opportunity to purchase Crown-owned properties, along with a cultural redress package.
- Cultural redress includes the vesting of 19 Crown-owned sites of cultural significance to the iwi and four sites to be shared with Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamaki Nui-ā-Rua.
- The return of almost 20,000 hectares of land including 70 per cent of Ngaumu Crown Forest Land.
- Return of the bed of Wairarapa Moana, shared 90 per cent by Ngāti Kahungunu and 10 per cent by Rangitane, the establishment of the Wairarapa Moana Board and a range of relationship agreements.
* There will be geographical name changes across the rohe.