A Crown offer of $93 million and almost 20,000ha of land -- including forestry sites at Ngaumu and the bed of Lake Wairarapa -- has been accepted by the people of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Tamaki Nui-a-Rua in settlement of their historic Treaty of Waitangi claims.
A ratification vote was held in the Masterton Town Hall last Saturday at which close to 200 registered descendants voted by 87 per cent in favour of accepting the offer.
Iwi leaders and Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson will consequently sign an Agreement in Principle document at the Dannevirke Town Hall on Saturday, May 7.
The Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua rohe, or territory, comprises one million hectares spread throughout the wider Wairarapa and Tamaki Nui-a-Rua regions from north of Dannevirke to just beyond Cape Turnagain and down to Cape Palliser, and encompassing the area east of the Tararua, Ruahine and Rimutaka ranges.
Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua trustees, who negotiated the settlement, claimed Crown actions and omissions since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi had led to the loss of most of that tribal territory and the alienation of innumerable Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua descendants from their lands, culture and language, and had wreaked "irreparable damage to the rich fabric of iwi life".
Trust chairman Ian Perry said trustees had navigated "an arduous journey to reach this point in the settlement process and there was still a long way to go".
"Our tipuna have been protesting the actions of the Crown and fought for these wrongs to be addressed since the 1800s. More recently, we have been fighting for this kaupapa in the Waitangi Tribunal and through the settlement negotiations process for almost 30 years," he said.
"Where we have got to today is a testament to the determination of those who began this journey and their commitment to achieving the best possible outcome for our iwi. I pay tribute to them," he said.
The Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa-Tamaki Nui a Rua Trust won Government approval in late 2012 as a settlement entity for people tracing a lineage to the two southern most Kahungunu districts -- Wairarapa and Tamaki Nui-a-Rua.
The trust comprised 10 trustees representing nine hapu who were charged with negotiating a fair and enduring settlement and to found a governance entity to receive and manage any resources negotiated under the settlement.
Mr Perry said, at the time the trust was established, that about 10,000 people identified with Kahungunu ki Wairarapa during the 2006 census, although the actual number of descendants was even greater and would be pinpointed as part of the claim's advancement.
"Now that we have reached this important milestone we hope to continue to move forward to complete the rest of the settlement negotiations so that our people can finally receive the benefit of redress that is now long overdue."
The settlement includes the $93 million package of financial and commercial redress, and land including the bed of Wairarapa Moana, or Lake Wairarapa, the establishment of the Wairarapa Moana Board, 70 per cent of Ngaumu Forest land, and a range of partnership agreements that place "Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua at the decision-making table with the Crown". Mr Perry said: "This package in no way compensates for the full extent of suffering endured by Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua.
"However, it creates the platform we need to set us on our feet and to build Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui-a-Rua potential in a way that upholds the mana of our iwi, our papakainga, marae and hapu."