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Finally settled

Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki-nui-a-Rua, a group of related hapu from Wairarapa and Dannevirke, has finally settled with the Crown in a landmark $115 million settlement which passed its third and final reading in parliament last night.

A group of 350 iwi members journeyed to parliament for the reading in a chartered train, the Ngati Kahungunu Express, which departed Dannevirke at 6.30am.

In defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, the bill’s passing has, in effect, settled the Wai 85 claim of Wairarapa Moana Incorporation [WMI] to resume ownership of their confiscated land under Maraetai Power Station in Waikato.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Wai 85, WMI’s claim to the land under the power station, should return to the Waitangi tribunal to be settled separately.

The Crown gave WMI the block of Waikato land as compensation for their non-delivery of promised reserves beside Lake Wairarapa.

The Crown further reduced the land, hundreds of kilometres away from South Wairarapa, when it confiscated another 787 acres, on which it built the Maraetai power station in 1949.

Minister of Treaty Negotiations Andrew Little said last Friday that he would consider legal advice on whether to remove Wai 85 from the settlement but chose not to do so before yesterday’s third reading, forcing WMI into settling with the Crown without allowing the claim to return to the Waitangi tribunal.

Little congratulated Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki-nui-a-Rua for reaching the milestone of their settlement passing its third reading.

“The Waitangi Tribunal found that the settlement trust had the mandate to settle Wai 85, not WMI, and the final settlement with the Crown reflects that.

“The Waitangi Tribunal found that the 787 acres of Puakani lands would need to be returned to the Settlement Trust, not WMI.

“In the end, the settlement figure of $115 million was agreed upon for all claims, without returning those acres,” Little said

The settlement, which has been in negotiations for over 30 years, included a Crown apology, $115 million in redress, and the opportunity for Ngati Kahungunu Tamaki-nui-a-Rua to buy Crown properties.

Settlement Trust chair Haami Te Whaiti said the settlement represented a new chapter for their people.

“This milestone would not be possible without the hard work of our kuia and kaumatua, and their aspirations for our people so many years ago.

“We are focussed on creating a sustainable and bright future for our people and working through what that might look like.

“It is timely to be finishing the year on a high by reaching this milestone. It allows us to begin 2023 with fresh eyes cast towards our strong future,” Te Whaiti said.

Meanwhile, Wairarapa Moana chair Kingi Smiler struggled to see how the passing of the bill could be seen as a fair and reasonable outcome.

“At the heart of this is natural justice and a group of New Zealanders being denied their day in court by a Government scared of a possible outcome.

“Successive Governments have kicked this can down the road for 30 years. Some day soon one will have to confront the issue of the Tribunal’s resumption orders on Crown land.

“This Government has used smoke and mirrors to avoid the Waitangi Tribunal exercising its binding powers. All Andrew Little has done is left a festering sore for the hapu and iwi to deal with. That’s bad faith”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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