It's an exciting time with negotiation for settlement of lower Whanganui land claims going strongly, lead negotiator Ken Mair says.
The negotiations happen about every two weeks, alternating between Whanganui and Wellington. They are intensive and there is a long way to go before an agreement in principle (AIP) can be signed.
Those on the Whanganui side of the table include Mair, Richard Kingi and various iwi historians and experts. On the other side is chief Crown negotiator Rick Barker.
Whanganui tribes are lucky to have research from the Waitangi Tribunal process to inform their negotiations, Mair said.
"A lot of iwi don't get hearings, but we have. We have a fair bit of background and knowledge that we can leverage off."
The settlement will have to be innovative, he said, because there isn't much land that can be returned. Along the Whanganui River much is conservation land, and in Whanganui town much is in Whanganui District Council ownership.
The trust has had initial discussions with Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall. The content is still confidential, Mair said.
Any settlement will be based on Whanganui values and world view, he said, which will make for a strong relationship with Crown agencies such as local councils.
While the negotiations are happening the Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust (WLSNT) is also going out to marae and hapū to ask about their aspirations. It has its annual general meeting at Ranana Marae on June 30, followed by updates and feedback.
At the same time a group, including some of the trustees, is looking at options for a post-settlement governance entity. That entity will work closely with Ngā Tangata Tiaki, the post-settlement governance entity for the Whanganui River.
Options for the new entity will be taken to the people, Mair said.
In June last year the WLSNT was mandated to negotiate land claims for the area from Pipiriki to the mouth of the Whanganui River. Terms of negotiation were agreed in July.
The trust's headquarters are in the top floor of 249 Victoria Ave, formerly Education House, now Tupoho House. The building is leased by Tupoho Investments and landbanked for use in Treaty of Waitangi settlement.
The trust's operations are led by Tracey Waitokia. Trustees listed on the WLSNT website are Mair, Kingi, Jenny Tamakehu, Tina Rupuha-Green, Erana Mohi, Daryn Te Uamairangi, Ken Clarke, Hone Tamehana, Des Canterbury-Te Ngaruru, Turama Hawira, George Matthews and Novena McGuckin.
John Maihi is the trust's settlor and kaumātua.