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The Government is poised to return some of Auckland's most prominent landmarks to Maori in a multimillion-dollar Treaty settlement.

Ngati Whatua o Orakei yesterday entered the final stages of negotiations seeking compensation for the loss of almost all hapu lands.

Tribal leaders travelled to Wellington yesterday to sign an agreement in principle with the Crown, one of the final stages in the settlement process, for a claim covering 33,000ha of some of the country's most valuable land.

The agreement includes $10 million in cash and the return and co-management of parts of One Tree Hill, Mt Eden and Mt Roskill, and a purchase and lease arrangement that will give the tribe ownership of as much as $80 million of Navy land in Devonport.

The agreement, which follows a 1991 deal settling Ngati Whatua land claims at Orakei, marks progress in negotiations that have recently been plagued by criticism from some hapu members and neighbouring iwi.

This year the Weekend Herald revealed that the tribe and chairman Sir Hugh Kawharu had come under fire for keeping tribal members in the dark over negotiations. A hapu member then spoke of growing anger within the subtribe over a lack of consultation by leaders.

That complaint was repeated yesterday, with further frustration voiced about the decision to release details of the proposal to the news services before a meeting with hapu members.

Sir Hugh held a press conference at the trust offices yesterday, two days before he and the trust board are to take the proposal to tribal members at Orakei marae.

Reports of the agreement have also rekindled frustration from neighbouring iwi, including the Waikato's powerful Tainui and Hauraki tribes.

Ngati Whatua o Orakei territory covers Auckland City (except Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands), the bulk of Waitakere and North Shore cities and small parts of northern Manukau City and southern Rodney.

Tainui chairman Tuku Morgan said Tainui controlled large tracts of land in the Auckland region and vowed to oppose any settlement unless there was strong consultation. Settlement could not be reached between Ngati Whatua and the Crown without "robust discussion" with Tainui.

This year a 576-page document detailing claims by the Hauraki tribes over Auckland and the North Shore was delivered to the Office of Treaty Settlements.

The claim includes tracts in the upmarket suburbs of St Heliers, Mission Bay, Ponsonby and Takapuna, and landmarks including Mt Eden and One Tree Hill.

The Crown will only begin drafting a deed of settlement, the final stage of settlement, if it is satisfied issues arising from overlapping iwi claims have been resolved.

Sir Hugh applauded the Crown's acknowledgment of wrongs done to the hapu, but played down concerns about the small financial redress.

"How do we get back our lost land, our lost entitlements and 166 years of lost opportunity? We can't. But we have negotiated with the Crown a package of redress that takes us some way and allows us to move forward."

The deal restored the tribe's mana whenua (customary authority) and returned guardianship and ownership of key cultural and historical sites.

He said the tribe had negotiated the best deal it could based on the Government's tight settlement policy, which refused to acknowledge the high value of land within the hapu's boundary.

"We therefore turned our attention to other aspects of potential settlement and have negotiated the opportunity to purchase at market value any surplus central Auckland Crown land through a right of first refusal."

The hapu would focus on improving its people's health and ensuring educational opportunities for all.

"I also want our people to understand more about our history, customs and language as we are tangata whenua and will be for generations."

He declined to discuss boundary disputes with other iwi.