Members of Te Arawa iwi Ngati Rangiwewehi say a much better relationship with the Rotorua Lakes Council has been instrumental in helping settle a long-standing grievance around Hamurana Springs.
Iwi representatives were in the public gallery yesterday when councillors voted unanimously to go ahead with a process to hand back land surrounding Hamurana Springs, at a meeting of the council's Strategy, Policy and Finance committee.
According to an agenda report, the title to the Hamurana Springs Recreation Reserve - approximately 47ha - was transferred to Ngati Rangiwewehi as part of its Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown, but this did not cover a small portion - 0.2ha - of land held under a water supply easement.
The council plans to hand back the rest of the reserve, saying it will not affect the water supply, as it has a resource consent to take from the spring until 2026.
As the spring is held under the Reserves Act, the final decision to hand back the land will be made by the Minister of Conservation after public consultation.
The Rotorua Daily Post spoke to Te Maru o Ngati Rangiwewehi Iwi Authority chairman Joe Tuhakaraina and kaumatua Toro Bidois after the meeting.
Both said improved communication and understanding of the iwi were mending relationships between the two and both were pleased the final piece of their Treaty claim was coming to and end.
"In 2014 the reserve land was returned to Ngati Rangiwewehi, but the piece of land around the pump station was cut out and the Crown told us at the time it was non-negotiable and up to the council to sort out with the iwi," Mr Bidois said.
"Through our MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the council they have realised it is better to collaborate and work with iwi than just come in and take, as the process was.
"We are not a greedy people, we know the water is there to share and we will share it. This will complete the whole picture and all of the land will come back to Ngati Rangiwewehi.
"The council is opening up doors to all iwi in Rotorua. It doesn't have to be a shouting match. They are now willing to listen to us, it's absolutely fantastic," he said.
Mr Tuhakaraina said there was nothing to fear when the iwi were handed back the land around the spring.
"We are only taking back what is rightfully ours. They say no-one owns water and if we take that concept then no-one will have a problem.
"We have to thank this council, they are actually mending something that was detrimental to the iwi after problems caused by councils before them."
Mr Tuhakaraina said the council could trust the iwi to do the right thing for all residents of Hamurana and Rotorua.