Mt Cook set for double change of ownership

The ownership of Mt Cook will change twice in short order, probably next year, in a symbolic ceremony to complete Ngai Tahu's Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

The Crown will vest New Zealand's highest mountain at 3755m in Ngai Tahu, and Ngai Tahu will then gift Mt Cook back to the Crown for the people of New Zealand.

Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere (chairman) Mark Solomon said yesterday that would be the symbolic final process to complete the settlement reached in 1998 under the Ngai Tahu Treaty Settlement Act.

It follows the completion in March this year of Ngai Tahu receiving titles to three Queenstown stations, the tribe then gifting back 4200ha from the properties to the people of New Zealand for conservation.

The date chosen for the vesting and gifting back of Mt Cook has not yet been set. That will be done following hui with 18 Ngai Tahu runanga in the South Island and its people in the North Island.

However, Mr Solomon was hopeful the ceremony would take place next year.

In the creation story of the South Island in Ngai Tahu legend, Aoraki - the Maori name for Mt Cook - is dominant. It is also key to the identity of the tribe and its people.

The Ngai Tahu Treaty Settlement Act in 1998 made provision for Mt Cook to be vested with Ngai Tahu.

Once that was done, under the act Ngai Tahu had to gift the mountain back to the Crown for the people of New Zealand.

The process would not affect the mountain's legal position in regard to the Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park, nor any agreements in regulations, leases, licences or other provisions under the National Parks Act.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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