Earthquakes force change of venue for Treaty ceremony

Earthquakes have forced a change of venue for Saturday's historic handover of assets which were negotiated through the Treelords Treaty settlement.

Treelords is the largest-ever Treaty of Waitangi settlement. It involves Crown forest land worth $195 million and covering 176,000ha, plus about $223 million in rentals that have accumulated on the land since 1989, and an annual income stream of $13 million.

Legislation enacting it was passed by Parliament in September.

Iwi in the Central North Island (CNI) Collective represent more than 100,000 people.

The asset handover ceremony was to have taken place at Waihi Marae on the southern end of Lake Taupo but a swarm of earthquakes forced the evacuation of Waihi Village this week because of the risk of landslides.

Stephen Asher, secretary of the CNI Collective, said the ceremony was being moved to Hirangi Marae about 5km away. "It is a huge undertaking and we've been very busy."

"There are eight iwi in the collective and we're expecting large contingents from all of them, as well as ministers, officials and invited guests.

We're looking at around 600 people attending."

Mr Asher said the decision to change the venue was taken early yesterday and by mid-morning arrangements were under way.

"I think most people had already realised it would be changed - it hasn't come as a complete surprise."

Mr Asher dismissed suggestions that the earthquakes were a bad omen.

"No, no, no, not at all. We don't think in terms of negative connotations," he said.

- NZPA

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