The crown has signed off a Deed of Mandate for a Maori trust to negotiate land claims in the region involving thousands of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa-Tamaki descendants.
Ngati Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa-Tamaki Nui a Rua Trust this month received the Government seal of approval after a dozen meetings about the mandate were held with descendants throughout New Zealand this year, trust chairman Ian Perry said.
The trust deed was signed by the Minister of Treaty of Waitangi negotiations Chris Finlayson, and MP Hekia Parata, as minister delegated responsibility for Takitimu.
"We're at the foot of the mountain at last and it's time to get out the crampons," Mr Perry said. "This is an exciting day for the claimants and the trustees. We are pleased to have reached a signification milestone that moves us closer to settlement and the day when the treaty settlements in the Wairarapa region not only assist local hapu but also boost the Maori commercial presence in the greater Wairarapa community as well."
The trust represents nine hapu karanga, a sub-tribal collective, in the Wairarapa region including Hinewaka, Papawai Marae, Wairarapa Moana, Hurunui o Rangi Marae, Tumapuhia a Rangi, Te Hika a Papauma, Te Ore Ore Marae, Akura and Tamaki Nui a Rua.
Mr Perry said about 10,000 people identified with Kahungunu ki Wairarapa during the 2006 census although the actual number of descendants is even greater and will be sought as part of the advancement of claims, he said.
Trust negotiations with the Crown regarding settlements come after the Waitangi Tribunal hearings that started in 2005 and the tribunal report released two years ago that "concluded overwhelmingly" the claims were well-founded, Mr Perry said.
"The trust's next step is to develop mutual terms of negotiation with the Crown," Mr Perry said. "It is planned that the terms of negotiation will be signed by April next year and during 2013 and into 2014 the trust will work with the Crown towards achieving an Agreement in Principle. The final remaining milestone will be the signing of a Deed of Settlement."
For a copy of the trust deed and to register as a descendant go online to www.kkwtnr.org.nz.