Despite the cold and rain, there was heat and passion at Dannevirke's Makirikiri Marae on Saturday as Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua signed their Treaty of Waitangi Deed of Settlement with the Crown.
The ceremony was attended by more than 300 people, including Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson, Members of Parliament, iwi members and Crown officials and iwi from overseas.
Mr Finlayson delivered the official Crown apology to the iwi, which was accepted through poignant korero from Rangitane iwi leader, Manahi Paewai of Dannevirke.
"Rangitane was wiped from the tribal landscape of Aotearoa and by the 1900s we were virtually landless and the worst implication of that early injustice is that many of our own still don't know, or believe, they are Rangitane," Mr Paewai said.
The settlement includes financial redress of $32.5 million and the return of eight cultural sites to the iwi, along with the opportunity to buy commercial properties, including part of Ngaumu Forest.
"This redress will go a long way in helping our people understand who they are and the Minister's apology today is mana-enhancing," Mr Paewai said. "While we will never forget, our children will be proud to be Rangitane."
Saturday's historic signing closes a long history of grievances for Rangitane and lead negotiator Jason Kerehi said the significant level of redress for the iwi is testament to the extent of their loss.
"This redress will allow us to rebuild, which will take time, but we are determined to ensure this settlement works to benefit our people for generations to come. It means a lot," he told the Dannevirke News. "As a negotiator I've had to overcome a lot of hurdles, not just with the Crown, but with other iwi and ourselves. This is a settlement which has to last forever."
Mr Kerehi said the Crown's apology was significant.
Dannevirke's Mavis Mullins was a member of the negotiation team and now heads Tu Mai Ra, the post-settlement governance entity. "It's been a very emotional day," she said. "I think of my dad who was at the start of all this, but now it's time to get on to the real work.
"That real work is about realising our dreams and to be successful, socially, culturally and economically. This negotiation has gone on for close to 30 years and the dreams have been built over that timeframe.
"Now it's time to leverage the assets and relationships to the next stage of the journey.
"It's time to move out of unrest to know a place of confidence and for Rangitane to be at the table as a real partner.
"We are looking forward to a time when Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu can relate together in a positive manner because we haven't been able to do that."
Mr Finlayson said Rangitane have been served by some very skilful and dedicated negotiators and as he reflected on years of grievances, with the loss of land, history and culture, the Minister acknowledged the negotiation process had been full of twists and turns.
"I hope and believe this package will mark the beginning of new treaty relationships between the Crown and Rangitane and the Crown apology will be incorporated into legislation taken to Parliament in the next few weeks."
As Mr Finlayson read the Crown's unreserved apology many in the audience wept.
The settlement covers the second-largest area of any Treaty Settlement to date, with redress sites spanning the region from north of Dannevirke, to Turakirae (Cape Palliser) and encompassing the wider Wairarapa and Tamaki nui-a-Rua regions.