After years of complex negotiations, Ngāi Tahu has welcomed a settlement over aquaculture rights in Southland.
The agreement was signed in Bluff on Tuesday by Murihiku hapū leaders, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan and Māori fisheries agency Te Ohu Kaimoana.
It will see a 16.6-hectare area off the northern coast of Rakiura/Stewart Island transferred to Ngāi Tahu, though any actual development will still be subject to resource consent.
Upoko o Awarua, Tā Tipene O'Regan, said the iwi had been advocating for its aquaculture rights since its initial fisheries settlement in 1992, and today's agreement delivers on the Crown's obligations under the 2004 Māori Fisheries Act.
The agreement, signed at Te Rau Aroha marae in Bluff, has been under discussion for seven years.
"Ngāi Tahu want to be at the forefront of this sustainable and developing industry, as we undertake aquaculture projects which are aligned with our tribal values of rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga, to help achieve the aspirations of our people," Tā Tipene said in the statement.
No decision has been made on what the area could be used for, but Tā Tipene said any development would see the creation of jobs for Southlanders in what he said was a growing, sustainable and low-emission industry.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu chief executive Arihia Bennett said a tribal aquaculture strategy was being developed that would support the iwi to lead and develop marine farming.
"While the settlement area is a tribal asset, and how it is utilised has yet to be decided by Te Rūnanga, mana whenua will remain at the heart of any decisions about projects to be developed in this space."