Four people who will lead the negotiation of Treaty of Waitangi claims for the Taihape area have been appointed.
The Mōkai Pātea Waitangi Claims Trust won the mandate to proceed with claims in the northern Rangitīkei region in March. It is made up of two trustees from each of the four marae in the Mōkai Pātea Nui Tonu rohe (area).
In a robust panel process overseen by legal counsel, trustees unanimously chose Che Wilson, Tracey Hiroa, Richard Steedman and Tama Potaka as lead negotiators of the claims.
"We are ecstatic to get that quality of negotiators. They look like they are a good unit collectively, with sharp minds," trustee Robert Martin said.
Expressions of interest and nominations for the roles were called from each of the Mōkai Pātea rūnanga (councils).
The negotiators all affiliate to the Mōkai Pātea claimant community and are expected to represent it as a whole.
They had a formidable list of skills including other treaty negotiations, iwi chair roles, agency and business directorships and roles in local, regional and central government, the trust said in a statement.
They also have Mōkai Pātea mātauranga (knowledge) and experience in investment, commerce, law and governance, and they comment on Māori issues.
Each has other roles, but all have said they will find time for the negotiations within those.
Trust chairman Utiku Potaka thanked everyone who was put forward for the negotiation roles, and said those unsuccessful would be part of a negotiation advisory team.
The negotiators will begin direct negotiation and could have an agreement in principle with the Crown within 18 months.
The Chief Crown Negotiator they will meet with is Katherine Gordon. She has been in the role since 2015, and is also working on the Te Korowai o Wainuiārua and Taranaki Maunga negotiations.
The negotiators will get the best possible redress and settlement for their four iwi, which are closely connected.
"You will find a lot of our people are all tied to the four iwi of Mōkai Pātea through whakapapa lines," Martin said.
One of the trust's underlying principles is maintaining kotahitanga (unity). Members of the Ngāti Hinemanu me Ngāti Paki Heritage Trust have sought to withdraw their claims from the negotiations, but Martin said the door remained open for them to be part of the claimant group.