Four Hawke's Bay reserves were gifted to the nation yesterday in a ceremony at Tangoio Marae.
Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve, Bellbird Bush Scenic Reserve, part of Opouahi Scenic Reserve in the Maungaharuru Range and the coastal Whakaari Landing Place Reserve.
Maungaharuru-Tangitu Trust received the Department of Conservation reserves on Saturday on behalf of several hapu. The properties are part of a 2013 Treaty of Waitangi settlement and the hapu have spent the week visiting the sites with which they have cultural, spiritual, traditional and historic associations.
Maungaharuru-Tangitu Trust general manager Shayne Walker said gifting back the reserves "signifies the preparedness and generosity of the hapu to the Hawke's Bay community and our ecosystem".
"This week's hapu celebrations are an opportunity to enhance our kaitiakitanga through sharing history and stories, enjoying each other's company in our environment and further evolving our hapu aspirations."
At Tangoio Marae three years ago Minister of Treaty Settlements Chris Finlayson apologised in person for the 110,000ha that went into Crown hands unjustly, leaving just 3ha.
Much of it was lost through confiscation following a marae invasion, the killing of more than 20 people at Omarunui and Petane and the incarceration of at least 13 others.
The Deed of Settlement for the Treaty of Waitangi claim apologised for "immense prejudice" inflicted on the hapu by the proclamation of a confiscation district.
"The Crown profoundly regrets compounding this prejudice by purchasing most of the remaining land of the hapu before 1930 in ways that were unfair and oppressive," the deed said.
"The Crown is very sorry it left the hapu virtually landless, and for the harm this caused to your tribal structures and ability to exercise customary rights and responsibilities."
Boundary Stream Mainland Island, Bellbird Bush, and the Opouahi Scenic Reserve are part of Poutiri Ao o Tane project to restore the landscape through pest control and habitat restoration. Kiwi, kaka, kereru and kokako are some of the species that have regained a foothold.
Kaumatua Bevan Taylor said Poutiri Ao o Tane would "fulfil our whakatauaki".
"Our old people have experienced prolific birdlife - when the birds took flight they blocked out the rays of the sun," he said.
"If it takes two or three more generations to see some of that again then we will have achieved our goal."
Whakaari Landing Place Reserve is named after a founding ancestor and was a strategic pa site and seafood source before becoming a whaling station.
Mr Taylor said ancestors fought and died at the landmark property and the coast "prolific with seafood".
"It is still there today but we need to take care of it."