An Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi has signed an Agreement in Principle with the Crown which it says is a positive step towards settling its historical Treaty of Waitangi claims.
Whakatohea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust signed the agreement at Parliament today.
Chairman Graeme Riesterer said Whakatohea first attempted to settle its raupatu (land confiscation) claims against the Crown over 20 years ago, and was pleased to be getting closer to achieving what its kaumatua set out to do so long ago.
"Today's signing of the Agreement in Principle is an important milestone for us.
"Our kaumatua struggled for so long and endured so much hardship to achieve this settlement, and we owe it to them to complete this journey," he said.
Kaumatua and trustee Bruce Pukepuke said the settlement was about much more than financial redress, as the iwi could never be adequately compensated for the huge losses they endured.
"This settlement is about us as a people, rediscovering our Whakatohea identity and coming together as one.
"Although this is a Crown process, it is also an opportunity for our iwi, hapu and whanau to reconnect with our hau kainga. We believe it will allow our people to begin to heal."
Whakatohea are a iwi located in the eastern Bay of Plenty comprising six hapu: Ngai Tamahaua, Ngati Ira, Ngati Ngahere, Ngati Patumoana, Ngati Ruatakena and Upokorehe.
Over the past year Whakatohea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust held hui throughout Aotearoa to ensure the views and aspirations of Whakatohea were reflected in any settlement outcome.
Mr Riesterer said the trust had been encouraged by feedback from its people around the progress that had been made to date.
"We appreciate that not all our whanau will agree, but we are focused on working to get the best outcome for all of Whakatohea.
"Our role is to ensure our iwi can look to a brighter future, and facilitate them to thrive culturally, socially, and economically."
The trust will now negotiate the details of the settlement with the Crown in the hopes of reaching a draft Deed of Settlement in the next 12 to 18 months.
Trustees are calling on all Whakatohea descendants to register and play a part in the journey.
"If you whakapapa to Whakatohea, it is your birth-right to be a part of this," Mr Riesterer said.
For more information visit www.whakatoheapresettlement.org.nz