Two Rotorua iwi have successfully negotiated with the Crown for the return of culturally significant lands at Waimangu and Otūkapuarangi.

Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi Trust (Te Mana) and Tūhourangi Tribal Authority (TTA) made the announcement today, one year after the Deed of Undertaking was signed between the iwi.

The milestone meant Ngāti Rangitihi had resolved the overlapping claim issues it had with Tūhourangi and could proceed with voting on its Deed of Settlement.

If the Deed is ratified and signed, Tūhourangi will then be able to have land returned that was not available when it settled with the Crown in 2007.

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The lands were the centre of many historic disputes for both iwi, and Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi are set to be the joint business and landowners of Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

This includes 80ha of concession land, now leased from the Department of Conservation, for eco-tourism business Waimangu Volcanic Valley Limited.

The annual concession fee will now be paid to the iwi owners instead of to the Department of Conservation.

 Tūhourangi Tribal Authority chairman Alan Skipwith (left) and Te Mana chairman Leith Comer. Photo / Supplied
Tūhourangi Tribal Authority chairman Alan Skipwith (left) and Te Mana chairman Leith Comer. Photo / Supplied

Te Mana chairman Leith Comer said the process had provided a unique opportunity for the iwi to work together to pursue common objectives at Tarawera.

"This agreement recognises the close overlap of Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi in a special part of the world, which features significantly in our tribal stories.

"Through this journey, we have rediscovered our close whakapapa, historical and cultural ties and we look forward to a strong, enduring and positive relationship with Tūhourangi post-settlement," he said.

"Ngāti Rangitihi is pleased that, together with Tūhourangi, our people can now truly own and be the kaitiaki of Waimangu, and further develop our eco-tourism business there."

Comer said they were happy they had been able to use the Treaty settlement process to enable Tūhourangi to have the land at Otūkapuarangi returned to them.

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Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Photo/ File
Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Photo/ File

"This area is of particular cultural significance to them and was originally part of the land awarded to them by the Native Land Court."

TTA chairman Alan Skipwith said achieving such a result through joint negotiations meant concerns about overlapping interests at Tarawera and Rotomahana had been addressed, enabling the Ngāti Rangitihi settlement negotiations to be completed, so Te Mana could bring to Ngāti Rangitihi members a Deed of Settlement to vote on.

"The agreement will see mutual benefits for both iwi and signals a new era in post-Treaty settlement relationships among neighbouring iwi," he said.

Both iwi acknowledged Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi negotiators, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little, the team from Te Arawhiti and the tīpuna and koeke of both iwi past and present.

"This work has been ongoing since 2015 and we should all be very proud of the outcome and the return of these hugely historical Tūhourangi tribal lands at Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Otūkapuarangi.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Photo/ File
Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Photo/ File

"Putting aside our differences in this way, despite the mamae of the past, will enable Tūhourangi and Ngāti Rangitihi to continue working together to develop the cultural, economic and environmental values of our whenua, through sustainable environmental tourism," Skipwith said.

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He said the return to iwi of the lands at Waimangu and Otūkapuarangi would mean their future generations could reconnect with the tribal lands their ancestors once roamed.

Ngāti Rangitihi will be able to vote on their Deed of Settlement from tomorrow to Sunday August 23, 2020.

If the Deed of Settlement is approved the agreements between Te Mana and TTA will come into effect once the Ngāti Rangitihi settlement has passed through legislation in 2022.

"We encourage all of Ngāti Rangitihi to ensure they are registered so they can vote and have their say on this important part of our settlement journey," Comer said.

"This settlement is a comprehensive one, that will unlock immense value for Ngāti Rangitihi."