Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua are absolutely committed to a vibrant community, Mavis Mullins told a hui in Dannevirke.
Mrs Mullins has been a member of Rangitane's Waitangi Treaty settlement negotiation team and now heads Tu Mai Ra, the post-settlement governance entity.
"For once Rangitane is solidly in a pretty cool driving seat," she said. "We're trying to focus on our job and engage with iwi, stakeholders and the community."
On May 11 Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua initialled their Deed of Settlement with the Crown in Wellington and now they're taking it to iwi for ratification.
Rangitane will receive approximately $32.5 million as part of the settlement which includes the return of some culturally significant properties and the ability to purchase further properties on a commercial basis.
But it hasn't been an easy journey, Mrs Mullins admitted.
"Over the last few years it's been a little bit soul-destroying, but now we are engaging with other iwi who have already settled their claims and we're wanting to learn the hard lessons [from them]."
Husband Koro Mullins asked the question everyone wanted answered. "What are you going to do with the money?"
However, Mrs Mullins said she did not want to jump the gun.
"We have to be realistic and we're hopeful the settlement will be ratified 100 per cent. We've engaged share investment managers and have developed infrastructure and strategies.
"Thirty million dollars isn't that much money to revitalise and re-energise and manage our assets.
"We are going quickly, slowly and we don't want to get this wrong, but recognise it is our people guiding this in the end."
In April 2014 Rangitane Tu Mai Ra received assets valued at $11 million from two on-account settlements with the Crown, approximately 33 per cent of the total value of their settlement. This was a cash payment of $6.5m and shares in Genesis Energy to the value of $4m.
Lead negotiator for Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua, Jason Kerehi said although the claim was lodged in 1990, they go back much further and the settlement acknowledges the land loss the iwi suffered.
"Only 2 per cent of those early 2.2 million acres remains in Maori ownership today, so this is the second biggest land claim outside Ngai Tahu," he said. "The negotiations weren't easy and we did come to some stop-go moments and needed some good advice. But we set out on a pathway to negotiate the best settlement possible."
The Rangitane settlement covers the second-largest geographical area of any Treaty settlement to date, with redress sites spanning the region from north of Dannevirke, down to Turakirae (Cape Palliser) and encompassing the wider Wairarapa and Tamaki nui-a-Rua regions.
"The jewel in the crown will be Pukaha Mt Bruce, once part of 90-mile bush, the key heartbeat for Rangitane," Mrs Mullins said. "We will gift this taonga back to the nation, but we might go down there for 24-hours and roll around."
Mr Kerehi said Pukaha has a sense of place for Rangitane.
"The redress over the Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre Reserve and Scenic Reserve - the last substantial remnant of the great forest Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga [also known to some as 70 Mile Bush] - is especially significant."
Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis said he was thrilled Rangitane had got within metres of the finishing line.
"It has been difficult, you've worked like hell," he said. "Mavis [Mullins] along with Henare [Kani] you've been stoic," he said.
A Deed of Settlement for Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua was initialled with the Crown on May 11 but remains subject to ratification by iwi and settlement legislation. The Treaty of Waitangi settlement is made up of three key components:
• Historical redress.
• Cultural redress.
• Commercial and financial redress.
As part of the commercial redress Office of Treaty Settlement landbank properties will be transferred to Rangitane, including the former Hillcrest School and dwelling, on Cuba and York Streets, Dannevirke.
Rangitane will have the ability to purchase up to 30 per cent of the Ngaumu Crown Forest licensed land and will also receive 30 per cent of the accumulated rentals in relation to that land held by the Crown Forestry Rental Trust.
Rangitane will receive a 10 per cent share of the joint vesting of the bed of Lake Wairarapa and will be a member on a new Wairarapa Moana statutory board, which also includes Ngati Kahungunu, the Department of Conservation and the local authority.
Rangitane will also receive an exclusive right of first refusal for 174 years to purchase the following properties if they become surplus to Crown requirements:
• Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tamaki nui-a-Rua.
• Dannevirke High School site (Part Crown-owned parcels only).
• Wairarapa College.
• Oporae Trig.
• 15 additional Crown properties to be identified before the signing of the deed of settlement.