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Iwi focusing on the future

The signing at Te Papa on Friday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

TOM TAYLOR
[email protected]

A Treaty settlement signed in Wellington last week will provide iwi with the opportunity to focus on the future, the Settlement Trust chairmaon said.

Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua signed their Deed of Settlement with the Crown on Friday, marking the end of years of negotiations and litigation.

In a speech at the signing, Settlement Trust chairman Haami Te Whaiti said the agreement would help the iwi work together with the Crown in the future, while also acknowledging the past.
Te Whaiti said the iwi’s ancestors had been entrepreneurs and traders.

“They were innovators of technologies and change, they pursued opportunities and brokered enduring relationships … We are not at all different from our tipuna [ancestors].

“Our aspirations for our people remain future focused. We continue to innovate, change, and pursue opportunities, and today we are working together with you all to broker enduring relationships.”

Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Settlement Trust chairman Haami Te Whaiti, left, signing the Deed of Settlement.

The signing took place at Rongomaraeroa Marae, on the site of Te Papa Museum.

“Given we didn’t have many people there, it was still quite moving,” Te Whaiti said.

Due to covid-19 restrictions, the ceremony was split into two parts. The first, on Friday, focused on the signing of the settlement with the Crown.

The second part – a full apology from the Crown – would happen when covid-19 restrictions allowed for larger gatherings.

Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little signed the Deed of Settlement on behalf of the Crown.

“The settlement acknowledges the injustices of the Crown’s past acts and omissions that resulted in the alienation of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua from their culture, language, and land,” Little said.

The financial and commercial redress package to come out of the settlement had a value of $115 million and gave the iwi the opportunity to purchase some Crown-owned properties.

“Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua have waited a long time to reach this point, especially considering the delay in signing the Deed of Settlement since it was initialled in 2018,” Little said. Te Whaiti acknowledged Little’s efforts during his term as minister.

“Despite the litigations that have characterised our settlement during your term as Minister of Treaty Settlement Negotiations, you have always been prepared for the Crown to progress and finalise the settlement here before us today.”

However, Te Whaiti also said that the journey to arrive at the settlement had been trying at times.

The Settlement Trust and the Crown had initialled a Deed of Settlement in March 2018. But in December 2018, the Waitangi Tribunal granted two resumption hearings which delayed
the settlement process.

“It would be disingenuous of me to fail to acknowledge here and now that when the issue of overlapping claims arose, there was a genuine risk that negotiations would collapse, and it was necessary to attempt a mediation with external facilitation,” Te Whaiti said.

“In some respects, the whole Treaty negotiation process encourages the pitting of iwi against iwi, and our mamae [injury] still needs to be healed as we move forward with our settlement.”

Just before Friday’s signing, Ngai Tumapuhia-a-Rangi ki Wairarapa had sought an injunction in the High Court to put a halt to the signing.

The Ngai Tumapuhia hapu sought the exclusive return of Ngaumu Forest, one of the first major forests planted by the Crown, which made up part of the settlement package.

Ngai Tumaphia-a-Rangi ki Wairarapa trustee Mark Chamberlain said despite the failed injunction, the litigation process would continue.

“We failed on the injunction, but it’s not all over.”

Chamberlain said lawyers for the hapu had filed to the Court of Appeal, and the Waitangi Tribunal would now take up their case on November 11.

He said there was precedent for the overturning of an agreement, even after a deed had been signed.

“This has been undone before when a minister has signed up a settlement agreement, and the tribunal has found in favour of the group that has claimed resumption.”

The 2018 Guide to the Practice and Procedure of the Waitangi Tribunal stated that the tribunal could make binding recommendations in some circumstances:

“Where the tribunal makes general recommendations, they do not bind the Crown or any other party. In limited instances, however, the tribunal may recommend the return or the resumption of certain lands, and these recommendations can become binding on the Crown.”

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