Iwi closer to having Taranaki Maunga become a legal person

8:28 am on 21 December 2017

The eight iwi of Taranaki are one step closer to having their sacred mountain and ancestor, Taranaki Maunga, become a legal personality.

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Mount Taranaki. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Last night the Crown made a promise to iwi that they would be able to exercise control and protection over their maunga for the foreseeable future.

Taranaki Maunga holds an important place in the hearts of Taranaki Iwi - the mountain is their ancestor, their place for sustenance, and a cornerstone to which all eight iwi are connected.

The Waitangi Tribunal's Taranaki Report, published in 1996, outlined that there had been no valid basis for Mt Taranaki's confiscation from Māori.

Over the past two years Taranaki iwi have united to reclaim control over the maunga and have their grievances acknowledged by the Crown.

Chief Negotiator for Taranaki iwi, Jamie Tuuta, said this united approach would ensure that the maunga would be cared for by all of its people.

"Our old people said taranaki is the pou which binds us all, unites the eight iwi, unites the three waka and all people of Taranaki.

"We're doing this for out Tūpuna Maunga to ensure that they are acknowledged and that they are cared for moving forward into the future."

Last night's signing of a Record of Understanding will allow both iwi and the Crown to form a joint governance entity over the mountain.

It also signaled a commitment from the Crown to acknowledge historic breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and give the iwi a formal apology.

But Jamie Tuuta said the Record of Understanding was just the beginning of the negotiation process.

"Moving forward, the minister has quite an ambitious target of achieving a Collective Redress Deed by September next year so it requires us to work through the detail for us as iwi in terms of our aspirations framework but also what that means for the Crown."

Taranaki iwi, Ngāti Maru, is the only Taranaki iwi yet to sign a deed of settlement with the Crown.

Ngāti Maru chief negotiator, Anaru Marshall, said his ancestors have fought tirelessly to regain control over Taranaki maunga for decades.

"The maunga is huge for us, people may not know but Ngāti Maru tūpuna have been making submissions to the Crown since the 1970s about handing that maunga back.

"We're not getting that today but we're going a long way past where we've been in the recent past."

The Treaty Negotiations Minister, Andrew Little, said he grew up around the Maunga and understands the significance it has to iwi.

"As a Pākehā growing up in Taranaki, you cannot help but be drawn by the maunga. For local iwi too it stands like a sentinel over everything you do in that rohe.

"They had their rights in relation to the maunga taken off them so that's what the Crown has to provide redress for."

The iwi of Taranaki will look to hold hui and wānanga from February next year to allow people to have their say on what the Deed of Collective Redress will look like.

The claim does not provide for any financial or commercial compensation.

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