Negotiations have begun on a hugely significant and sensitive Treaty claim for Mount Taranaki, which will include discussion about who is the rightful of owner of the landmark.
Nga Iwi o Taranaki, the umbrella organisation for eight Taranaki iwi, signed terms of negotiation with the Crown over Mt Taranaki (also known as Mt Egmont) yesterday.
Chief negotiator Jamie Tuuta said it was a long-awaited opportunity to settle Taranaki iwis' grievances, which he described as the most severe in the country.
The mountain, which is of profound importance to iwi, was confiscated by the Crown along with other peaks in 1865.
"We say that [Mt] Taranaki is the source of our identity and is a source of inspiration for people," Tuuta said.
"Taranaki has a permanence, he's always been there as a symbol of strength and identity for our people. To have ... that confiscated has always been challenging, and it's caused a lot of stress for generations of Taranaki iwi."
Nga Iwi o Taranaki had not yet determined its position on the mountain's ownership.
The mountain was considered an ancestor to local Maori, and Tuuta said it might not be appropriate for descendants to claim ownership of it.
On the other hand, some in the collective iwi did not want the Crown to own the mountain either.
It was possible iwi could seek a similar arrangement to Tuhoe, who made a unique agreement with the Crown in which the Ureweras were legally owned by nobody but jointly managed by the iwi and the Government.
The iwi had not yet considered whether it would make any claim relating to the freshwater within the national park, Tuuta said.
Nga Iwi o Taranaki has set a deadline of August to complete the negotiations, though it said that was ambitious given the complexity of the claim.
"We've waited generations to get to this point," Tuuta said. "And although we have that timeframe to work towards, ultimately we've got to ensure that we take the time to get this right."
The terms of negotiation said the apology and cultural redress in relation to Mt Taranaki "will not include any financial or commercial redress".
The collective iwi decided to turn their attention to the mountain after completing their individual Treaty claims.
While one of the iwi, Ngati Maru, has not yet settled its claim, it agreed to terms of negotiation with the Crown late last year.
The other seven iwi which make up Nga Iwi o Taranaki are Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, Taranaki, Ngati Maru, Nga Ruahine, Nga Ruanui and Nga Rauru.