$200m treaty deal makes tribe 'a force'

By Jon Stokes

A treaty settlement estimated to be worth about $200 million will be announced today.

It will make Rotorua iwi Te Arawa one of the North Island's largest landowners.

The settlement, the first to come from direct negotiations with the Crown, bypassing the Waitangi Tribunal, will be one of the most lucrative settlements struck by any tribe.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Mark Burton, Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia and former Treaty Minister Margaret Wilson will be among Government representatives at the signing of the deed of settlement for the Te Arawa treaty of Waitangi land claim at Te Pakira marae today.

A senior Te Arawa source, who did not want to be named, said the Government claimed the settlement's value was $36 million, but the true value to the tribe was about $200 million.

The deal will return 50,000ha of Crown forest land, valued at about $175 million, and cultural assets including part of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Springs Reserve.

And it will give the iwi the opportunity to buy selected Crown-owned commercial properties and geothermal assets.

It follows three years of negotiations between Nga Kaihautu O Te Arawa, a group representing 62 per cent of the tribe, and the Government, and covers more than 50 Treaty of Waitangi claims.

The claim was rocked by protest from some disaffected hapu members unhappy with the process and what they said was inadequate compensation for the tribe's losses.

Six Te Arawa hapu withdrew to negotiate their own claims.

Nga Kaihautu chairman Eru George said the deal was a good one, and the best that could be expected under the Government's strict treaty negotiation policy.

"This settlement will make our people one of the largest landowners and landlords in the central North Island."

It would also make the tribe a powerful commercial force.

"The return of a $175 million forest is huge," said Mr George. "That is an achievement in its own right."

He said the tribe now faced the challenge of setting up the structures to manage its expanded asset base.

Today's ceremony marks a further swelling of tribal coffers, after the Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Bill passed in Parliament this month.

The bill provides for the transfer of settlement assets and other redress agreed in the 2004 deed of settlement, and the full and final settlement of Te Arawa's treaty claims in relation to the lakes.

The settlement includes a Crown apology and cultural redress including title to 13 lakebeds in the Rotorua area, and financial redress of $2.7 million and annuity redress of $7.3 million.

Last week, Te Ohu Kaimoana said Te Arawa would receive $23.6 million worth of assets and cash - its share of the 1992 Waitangi Fisheries claim.

A Ngai Tahu elder has warned against drawing comparisons with other settlements to determine whether the Te Arawa settlement is the largest.

In 1995, Waikato, and then in 1998 Ngai Tahu, agreed settlements valued at $170 million.

Sir Tipene O'Regan who helped negotiate the Ngai Tahu deal, said comparisons were difficult, as the amount given by the Government rarely matched the final value of a settlement.

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