Land of "immense cultural and historical significance" has officially been returned to a Bay of Plenty iwi.
Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi Trust (Te Mana) announced today it had been appointed as responsible trustee of Pokohu A3 Māori Reservation, which comprises 41ha of undeveloped Māori freehold land adjacent to the Tarawera River in the Ruawahia Survey District.
The Pokohu A3 Block will now be administered by Te Mana on behalf of Ngāti Rangitihi as a reserve.
Te Mana chairman, Leith Comer, said the decision by the Māori Land Court to officially recognise Ngāti Rangitihi as owners and kaitiaki of the block was significant.
"Ngāti Rangitihi has always exercised mana whenua in the Pokohu/Ruawahia lands, and our traditional rohe extends from Waiariki to Maketū.
"Pokohu A3 Block is the gateway to our tribal lands inland and the gateway to the Tarawera Falls, and today, we have officially been recognised as its gatekeepers so that we can protect this whenua for generations to come," Comer said.
"This is our taonga, our tūrangawaewae, that has now been rightfully returned to Ngāti Rangitihi."
In 2019, Te Mana was approved as the Post-Settlement Governance Entity (PGSE) to receive and administer the Ngāti Rangitihi settlement redress. In 2020, Te Mana completed Te Tiriti o Waitangi settlement negotiations and the Ngāti Rangitihi Deed of Settlement was signed.
This meant that an appropriate Ngāti Rangitihi entity now existed to administer the Pokohu A3 Block on behalf of Ngāti Rangitihi beneficiaries.
Prior to the Māori Land Court ruling this month, the land block had been administered by the Te Arawa Lakes Trust.
"We thank the Te Arawa lakes Trust for their generosity and support in administering this block until we had the right mechanisms in place to administer it ourselves," Comer said.
"The Treaty settlement has given our iwi the mana to advocate for the return of lands that are culturally, historically and spiritually significant to us."
Comer said Ngāti Rangitihi looked forward to working in partnership with the Department of Conservation to improve facilities and access through to the [Tarawera] falls, as well as investigate ways to visually and symbolically express Ngāti Rangitihi mana on the Pokuhu A3 Block.