9 Sep 2015

Most Muriwhenua iwi settle with Crown

6:06 pm on 9 September 2015

Legislation giving Far North iwi a strong say over 90 Mile Beach and affecting the largest return of land to Maori has been passed by Parliament.

90 Mile Beach

90 Mile Beach Photo: 123rf.com

The Te Hiku Claims Settlement Bill includes the redress of four out of five Muriwhenua iwi: Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rarawa and Ngati Kuri.

The remaining Muriwhenua tribe, Ngati Kahu, had pulled out of the negotiations and last night closed down Kaitaia airport in protest of some of the redress to other iwi the bill.

About 200 people made the journey to witness the occasion in Parliament today.

Descendants concluded the third and final reading with a series of moving waiata and haka, holding photos of loved ones who had passed away before the final reading.

Haami Piripi.

Haami Piripi. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Te Runanga o Te Rarawa chair Haami Piripi said the people there did not start the claim, their elders did.

"In finishing it this way, we can't help but think of them. Our food today is tears, for them and for the work they've done to prepare us for today," he said.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson paid tribute the late Dame Whina Cooper, who lead a march which was pivotal to Maori rights.

He also paid tribute to the late Maori politician Matiu Rata, whose work lead to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal 40 years ago.

"It's said that Mat Rata quietly returned more Crown land to Maori in a single term than any minister previously. I'm so pleased these settlements continue that legacy, through one of the largest returns of land to Maori ownership through any treaty settlement."

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rarawa and Ngati Kuri will be joint owners of 21,000 hectares of Crown forest land on the Aupouri peninsula.

They will collectively get about $100 million cash.

A social accord with the Crown has also been entered into, to improve the social circumstances of Far North whanau.

Excited about future

Te Runanga o Ngai Takoto chair Wallace Rivers said he was excited about the future.

"We have some specific needs that we need to address for our people.

"But I think in the bigger picture and the future of Te Hiku o Te Ika is collaboration with our iwi partners. That's the key to the development and progress and future of Te Hiku o Te Ika," he said.

As part of the deal, the iwi will co-manage conservation land in the region, and 90 Mile Beach, known by Maori as Te Oneroa-a-Tohe.

A board for beach management will be created which will include 50 percent iwi and will be chaired by iwi.

Mr Piripi said swimmers and fishermen would not be disadvantaged.

"If you're a person who hoons around on the beach and does wheelies and wrecks the place then you should be concerned.

"But if you're an ordinary recreational user or fisherperson or swimmer or shell food gatherer then there's no concern whatsoever. What will happen is that the place will be greatly enhanced."

Mr Rivers said it was a time of celebration for the four Muriwhenua iwi in Wellington but the thought of Ngati Kahu protesting the settlement at Kaitaia airport was in the back of everyone's mind.

Iwi were hurting and would talk more with Ngati Kahu, given the chance, he said.

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro rangatahi Jackie-Lee Natana and Irie Thomas, who attended the final reading, said they wanted the fighting to stop.

Miss Natana said the most important thing out of the day was that Muriwhenua iwi came together, that there was no more fighting and that the land was returned to iwi.

Mr Thomas said he was sure most Maori and rangatahi were sick of the fighting.

"It's really confusing and it's tearing us apart - it's tearing the iwi apart"

"All us people as Maori need to look back on our tikanga and actually see what's happening so we can stop all this and resolve it all."

The legislation will soon be signed off by the Governor-General and become law.

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