Treaty settlement something to celebrate

By Christine McKay -

The agreement in principle to a $32.5 million Treaty of Waitangi settlement for Tararua and Wairarapa Rangitane iwi is a momentous time in history, Dannevirke business woman Mavis Mullins says.

Mrs Mullins, one of the negotiators for Rangitane of the Wairarapa and Tamaki Nui-a-Rua (Tararua) with the Crown, said the settlement was a touchstone for the Tararua and Wairarapa.

"It has been 24 years and a long time to be carrying an issue like this and to keep it current," she said. "But this is a giant leap forward and a settlement for the whole region to celebrate.

"We've created the platform, not just for Rangitane, but our communities, and the settlement gives mana back to the people."

The agreement sets out to redress historic Treaty claims and includes the financial settlement of $32.5 million and the transfer of seven Crown-owned sites of cultural significance to the iwi. There will also be opportunities for Rangitane to acquire commercial properties, including Crown forests.

"This is a wonderful chance for Rangitane to add value for our community in a way we've never been able to do before," Mrs Mullins said. "We can be more proactive in our community and we'll have the resources to enhance our cultural identity.

"It's exciting stuff."

While Mrs Mullins said the group was excited, the celebrations were tempered with humility.

"There's a richness that Maori bring, but it is also about New Zealand Inc," she said.

Te Rehunga dairy farmer Lorraine Stephenson has been part of the Treaty negotiations for most of the 24 years and is thrilled with the settlement and said it's about being New Zealanders.

"It's special and I want to shout the news from the roof tops," she said. "I've walked the talk and been part of the highs and lows and it has been a long road home, but we have weathered the storms.

"It has been a long and rigorous process, but I'm pretty excited," she said. "Rangitane have brought this settlement to the region, but it's not for us, but for the next generation and for our people to be proud of who they are. I'm just sad my father is no longer with us to see this day, too.

"The agreement confirms our place here in the Tararua, as we've ticked the boxes for the Crown. Our people have kept the fires burning and there's never been a time when Rangitane haven't been here."

Dannevirke's Manahi Paewai, with James Rimene from the Wairarapa, is a named claimant for the iwi-wide Treaty claim.

"It's about Rangitane standing up and going forward," Mr Paewai said. "We're standing up together."

He was excited by the cultural revitalisation the settlement would bring.

"A strong cultural identity, along with quality education, is the key to success and the settlement package can provide a springboard for these to occur in a Maori and Rangitane context," he said.

"I'm looking forward to some exciting times."

For Dannevirke's Henare Kani, the process has been emotional: "There's been a lot of hard work, but it's been part of the journey.

"We've been fortunate in having such a great negotiators including Mavis [Mullins]."

Not only have the iwi signed the agreement in principle with the Crown, it has also established the Rangitane post-settlement governance entity, the Rangitane Tu Mai Ra Trust, with Mrs Mullins one of the interim trustees.

"I'm looking forward to ensuring the region as a whole prospers along with our iwi," she said.

"The Tararua and Wairarapa regions need this injection of cash and the settlement will allow Rangitane to work with local businesses and local authorities to build a better future.

"Strategic relationships will be vitally important for Rangitane in the post-settlement phase and key people can expect a knock on the door in the near future from trust representatives.

"A core group have done the hard yards and we're now putting the call out to our people to come and contribute to enrich and motivate as we go forward."

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