Majority of Whakatōhea iwi agree to push on with Treaty settlement

9:30 am on 23 February 2023
Waiotahe beach in Ōpōtiki, Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Whakatōhea is an Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi, centred in Ōpōtiki (pictured is Waiotahe beach). Photo: 123RF / Julie Schleifer

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little has confirmed the recent Whakatōhea ratification vote demonstrated enough support to enter into a settlement with the Crown.

This represented a significant milestone in the long journey to settlement for the Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi.

Members of Whakatōhea voted to accept the Crown's offer, marking an end to nearly 30 years of negotiations.

The Crown offered $100 million, 5000 hectares of marine space, and the return of 6000 hectares of land, as well as cultural and commercial redress.

Right through the ratification elections, some hapū and members of Whakatōhea were opposed to accepting the Crown's offer, holding their own hui.

But in the end, the majority of Whakatōhea voted to push on with the settlement.

Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust chairman Graeme Riesterer.

Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust chair Graeme Riesterer says the decision will affect generations to come. Photo: Supplied/LDR

Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust chair Graeme Riesterer said the impact of this vote was far-reaching and would resonate for generations to come.

"It means we can start to bring the aspirations of our whānau to life and build a better future for our mokopuna, their children and their children's children," he said.

Riesterer said the settlement would be transformational for Te Whakatōhea and the Ōpōtiki community.

"From a financial perspective, we will be in a position to invest in our people and the local economy, for example in our world leading aquaculture ventures resulting in greater employment opportunities, improved earning potential, living conditions for everyone. This is critical to our whānau in the current economic environment.

"We will also be able invest in our Whakatōheatanga, our cultural capability, reo, tikanga and even waiata and kapa haka. Something our whānau keep telling us they want to see more of," he said.

This is also the first time that an iwi would be able to proceed with settlement while allowing the Waitangi Tribunal process to continue on to hear the historical Treaty claims.

Usually, settlement legislation removes the jurisdiction of the Waitangi Tribunal to hear claims subject to that settlement.

"We have whānau who wanted to progress with the settlement, and those who told us they want their stories told and recorded through the Waitangi Tribunal process.

"The dual process will support our whānau to share their stories and have these taonga recorded for perpetuity."

Riesterer said many in the iwi worked hard for the settlement and it would be especially significant for whānau to hear the Crown apology and start planning for the future.

"I would also like to acknowledge those of our Whakatōhea whānau who are no longer with us to see this dream come true. It is now time for us to come together and move forward as one."

The signing ceremony will be held in Ōpōtiki at a date to be confirmed.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs