Ngati Kahungunu could hold the key to Hawke's Bay's future prosperity, an iwi leader says.
Several hundred members of iwi from Wairoa to Takapau Plain were returning home last night after the Crown signed an agreement to settle dozens of Treaty of Waitangi claims.
Two separate agreements in principle were signed at Parliament yesterday with He Toa Takitini, representatives of the people of Heretaunga-Tamatea, and Northern Hawke's Bay group Te Tira Whakaemi o Te Wairoa, with hopes settlement deeds will be completed by early next year.
Each settlement includes a cash offer of $100 million, and other recognition of loss and grievance, with a unique commitment also from the Crown to the people of Mihiroa Marae, near Hastings, to try to track down 56 taonga missing and believed stolen from the estate of the Pukepuke Tangiora Estate more than 50 years ago.
The agreements follow previous settlements with Raupunga and Mohaka-based Ngati Pahauwera and Tangoio-based Maungaharuru, and agreement with Napier-based Mana Ahuriri, leaving only an agreement with Wairarapa to be made, of six natural groupings of claims within Ngati Kahungunu's rohe stretching from north of Wairarapa to Cape Palliser.
Wairarapa negotiations take place tomorrow.
He Toa Takitini chairman David Tipene-Leach said: "This is a key step in progress toward the final settlement package that will settle the claims over 1.47 million acres of land alienated from Maori hands.
"It will signal a change from grievance mode to development mode of thinking in our communities.
"Ngati Kahungunu is set up to be a powerful influencer in Hawke's Bay."
Negotiator Liz Munroe said the package positions the iwi to move from being spectators to being decision-makers with an ability to influence the outcomes in all areas.
"We will no longer be invisible within our tribal rohe," Ms Munroe said.
The Heretaunga-Tamatea agreement proposes "a collection of instruments" to assist in environmental protection, particularly around rivers, the purchase of some key properties, and relationships agreements with Government ministries.
The Wairoa agreement includes seven iwi and hapu clusters, across Waikaremoana, Wairoa and Mahia to south of Gisborne, with redress including Wharerata and Patunamu forests, several Department of Conservation sites, and a social and economic revitalisation strategy in partnership with Government agencies.
Among signatories yesterday was kaumatua Jerry Hapuku, great-great grandson of the Heretaunga chief Te Hapuku, and fellow Heretaunga-Tamatea claim kaumatua Haami Hilton and Ahi Robertson.
Mr Hapuku and Mr Hilton spoke along with fellow claim representatives Piri Sciascia and Dr Tipene-Leach, while Tamati Olsen and John Whaanga spoke on behalf of Wairoa people at their ceremony later in the afternoon.