The signing of a deed of settlement by Far North iwi Ngai Takoto has been hailed as a new dawn for the tribe and for Northland's long under-performing economy.<inline type="photogallery" id="15601" align="outside" embed="no" />
The ceremony was held at Te Rangi Aniwaniwa, the Maori-medium school at Awanui founded by activist-turned-MP Hone Harawira and his wife Hilda.
Signing was bittersweet for Ngai Takoto's chief negotiator Rangitane Marsden, whose late father, the Rev Maori Marsden, started negotiations with the Crown 26 years ago but did not live to see the job completed on Saturday.
Mr Marsden said his iwi was small but had shown great determination. "It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it's the size of the fight in the dog."
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and the Crown team were welcomed in blazing sunshine with a challenge led by former Te Rangi Aniwaniwa head boy and current Northland rugby rep Whiria Meltzer, followed by a haka powhiri by the school's current students.
Far North Mayor Wayne Brown said he looked forward to a new era of partnership and, given the high standard of leadership of Far North iwi, a lift in economic performance benefiting everyone in the district.
Mr Finlayson agreed, saying the signing was a "fantastic opportunity" for regional development, and a turning point for relations between Ngai Takoto and the Crown.
He paid tribute to the resolve of Ngai Takoto's negotiators and read the Crown's apology, detailing how the iwi had been left virtually landless by 1859.
Mr Marsden accepted the apology and spoke of a new start.
"We accept the challenge of a new dawn, a new beginning, a new future ... enough is enough, let's move forward together."
He hoped the settlement would help turn the Far North's fortunes around and bring its people home from Australia.
The iwi was already working with councils and the Te Hiku Forum on plans for Northland's economic and social advancement; the next challenge would be better representation for Maori in local government.
Mr Marsden said the settlement was the best Ngai Takoto could achieve.
"If there was any more to do we'd still be negotiating. When you get to a point where you've got all you can get, there's no point turning on your neighbours," he said.
The iwi marked the signing with a three-day celebration which included a sports tournament, kapa haka, a hakari (feast) and the announcement of seven new academic scholarships.
Also present were representatives of King Tuheitia, the other Te Hiku iwi and MPs Shane Jones and Mike Sabin.