Negotiators of the Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua Deed of Settlement, which was initialled at Parliament yesterday, say a major step has been taken towards reaffirming the Rangitane identity as an iwi within Wairarapa and Tamaki nui-a-Rua.
The Rangitane settlement, which also includes financial redress of $32 million, covers the second-largest geographical area of any Treaty settlement to date, with redress sites spanning the region from north of Dannevirke, down to Turakirae (Cape Palliser) and encompassing the wider Wairarapa and Tamaki nui-a-Rua regions.
Lead negotiator Jason Kerehi said the "significant level of redress for an iwi with a relatively small population is testament to the extent of the loss suffered by the iwi".
"Our land and our identity are irrevocably linked," Mr Kerehi said. "Rangitane was left virtually landless during the 20th century as a result of the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi breaches, and our iwi have struggled to maintain our connection to our land and culture ever since.
"Being acknowledged as the tangata whenua of this great region is vital; it empowers our iwi and reaffirms our mana."
The Rangitane settlement will return a number of key cultural sites which are located across the entire Rangitane area of interest and will provide the opportunity to purchase commercial properties, including Ngaumu Forest.
The redress over the Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre Reserve and Scenic Reserve -- the last substantial remnant of the great forest Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga (also known to some as 70 Mile Bush) -- is especially significant.
Rangitane will "gift this taonga back for the people of New Zealand to reflect their tikanga of tuku whenua", Mr Kerehi said.
The trust will hold a series of meetings over the coming two months for members of Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua to ratify the settlement.