Tongariro will always be open: Iwi

By James Ihaka -
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Tongariro National Park.
Tongariro National Park.

Ngati Tuwharetoa paramount chief Sir Tumu te Heuheu says New Zealanders will still have free access to Tongariro National Park and its surrounds despite a report confirming his people's belief its peaks were never gifted to the Crown.

Sir Tumu said the Waitangi Tribunal's Te Kahui Maunga report set the record straight with regard to the so-called gifting of the mountains and the formation of Tongariro National Park.

The non-binding 1360-page report on 41 Treaty claims from iwi and hapu that have links to the mountains Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, Pihanga, Hauhungatahi and Kakaramea also addressed the establishment and operation of the Tongariro power development scheme.

It found the Crown mistakenly believed Horonuku te Heuheu's tuku (transfer) of the cluster of mountains in 1887 to the Crown was a "noble gift" - so the formation of the Tongariro National Park later that year was in breach of the Treaty.

The tribunal found the Crown did not compensate Maori for the lands it acquired for the park nor did it consult Whanganui iwi over its establishment and governance - despite knowing they had interests in its southern area.

Sir Tumu said the report marked the end of a long journey to have his people's story formally acknowledged.

"We must now sit down with the Crown and explore how the original intentions of my great-great-grandfather can be put into effect."

He said iwi acknowledged that the mountains in the Tongariro National Park were precious and New Zealanders had nothing to fear with regard to access.

"Protecting the maunga for all New Zealanders in the appropriate way was the objective in 1887 and it remains the same today," he said.

The tribunal recommended the Crown should restore its partnership with iwi and the national park be made inalienable and held jointly under a new Treaty of Waitangi title.

It also recommended that the park be co-managed by a statutory authority comprising Crown and iwi representatives.

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