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Ceremony marks return of Pukaha

PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

KAREN COLTMAN
[email protected]

After more than 100 years of not owning 942 hectares of traditional iwi land at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre, Rangitane o Wairarapa is holding a ceremony tomorrow to mark the return of it to them by the government.

Rangitane worked towards its Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown for almost 30 years and settled on August 6, 2016.

The agreement included $32.5 million and is the second-largest treaty settlement ever in terms of the geographic area covered.

In 2016, treaty settlements minister Chris Finlayson said Rangitane was left virtually landless by the early 20th century, and the iwi struggled to maintain its distinct identity, customary knowledge, and language.

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy. PHOTO/ESTHER BUNNING

The land handover ceremony is being led by the Queen’s representative, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.

She will wear a korowai cloak not worn before and when finished her part of the ceremony, the cloak will be put on the chairman of Rangitane Tu Mai Ra Trust, Jason Kerehi.

The cloak has been weaved over three years by an iwi member and is made from feathers of kiwi in the area and other birds at Pukaha.

“The Pukaha wildlife reserve has huge conservation importance for Rangitane and for all of Aotearoa New Zealand,” Dame Patsy said.

“But for Rangitane it was a key redress in their treaty settlement because of the tribal and cultural significance of the land.

“I am delighted to be able to attend as a Wairarapa resident and as a former Crown negotiator of Treaty settlements.

“It is wonderful to see the treaty process for this iwi conclude in such a meaningful and symbolic way.

“Above all, it’s a great privilege to attend as the representative of the queen of New Zealand.”

A spokesperson for the trust said that that the iwi was getting “very excited” about the event at Pukaka.

The event is invitation only and more than 300 iwi members and guests are expected.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage is representing the Labour-led government.

The three Wairarapa mayors are going as well as Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis.

In 12 months’ time, Rangitane would gift the land back to New Zealanders.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at Pukaha last November that she named the kiwi about to hatch Koha Te Aroha [gift of love] because it was an “incredibly generous gift to the nation” by the iwi to gift the land back.

Pukaha would remain open throughout the ceremony tomorrow.

The ownership of the land by the iwi would not change the operations of the centre over the next year.

Technically, the land was received back when the Deed of Settlement was signed, but Rangitane is holding ceremonies over this year to celebrate.

Across New Zealand, a Treaty settlement comprises an historical account, Crown acknowledgements and apology, cultural redress, and financial and commercial redress.

Rangitane’s area of interest extends from north of Dannevirke to Makaramu [near Porangahau], down to Cape Palliser and encompasses the wider Wairarapa and Tamaki nui-a-Rua regions.

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