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Milestone reading for iwi

Paora Ammunson, far right, one of the kaikorero [speakers] at Parliament ahead of the first reading of the Joint Redress Bill. PHOTOS/TOBY ROSENBERG

MARY ARGUE
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More than three decades of advocacy and negotiations culminated in a historic day for Wairarapa iwi, with the first reading of Te Rohe o Rongokako Joint Redress Bill.

In Parliament chambers last week ministers acknowledged the people past and present who whakapapa to Wairarapa iwi and the significant time taken to effect cultural redress for treaty claims initiated in the 80s and 90s.

The bill seeks cultural redress shared among Rangitane o Wairarapa, Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua [Rangitane], and Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua [Ngati Kahungunu], as outlined in deeds of settlement signed in 2016 and 2021.

The settlements provided for sites and catchments throughout the Wairarapa rohe, including reserves at Castlepoint, Mataikona, Makirikiri, and Wairarapa Moana.

In addition, the legislation would establish a Wairarapa Moana Statutory Board comprising members appointed by Rangitane, Ngati Kahungunu, the Minister of Conservation, Greater Wellington Regional Council and South Wairarapa District Council.

Covid restrictions limited the number of attendees in Parliament, but emotions ran high for iwi members present.

Ngati Kahungunu negotiator and settlement trust chairman Haami Te Whaiti said it was the first step in the final stages of treaty ratification for Ngati Kahungnu.

He said joint redress settlements were rare, and the kuia and kaumatua who initiated the process had created a legacy.

“It has been a long time coming to get to this point. There were a whole lot of people that weren’t present and couldn’t be present.

“I think my old people would love to see us coming together to finalise these claims. They would have been very proud of what we and Rangitane have been able to do.”

“[To see it] finally discussed and presented in the chambers of Parliament. That was emotional for me.”

Original treaty claimant on behalf of Rangitane, Piriniha Te Tau said the reading marked the last part of settlements for the iwi.

From left: Noeline Reti, Te Amokura Harrison, and Marama Tuuta, lead the pohiri into Parliament.

He said the day was about reflecting on the kuia kaumatua who had started the process and hoped it would mark a significant change in co-governance.

“One of the things I hope for and am happy about now, is that our iwi will be treated as partners, rather than an appendage or afterthought.”

Te Tau said he was optimistic that the settlement would create a pathway for current and future generations to walk.

Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little thanked Wairarapa iwi for their commitment and acknowledged those “who carried this important work”.

“Today, they are in our thoughts and with us in spirit.”

He said Wairarapa Moana was once a jewel for the people of Wairarapa, historically providing kaimoana and enabling iwi to trade beyond the region.

However, in 1853 disputes arose when the Crown began encroaching and purchasing land on the lake’s boundaries.

Little said the Crown failed to uphold its side of the deal after receiving the iwi-gifted moana.

He said settlements provided for Crown apology redress, facilitating the overdue return of the lake to its rightful owners.

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Little said it was a testament to Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu that they had engaged in negotiations and committed to rebuilding a Crown partnership despite the devastating loss of land and generational suffering.

He envisioned a partnership based on “co-operation, genuine mutual trust and respect for Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles”.

Wairarapa member of Parliament Kieran McAnulty, said he supported co-governance wholeheartedly, and Te Rohe o Rongokako recognised the existence of a unique role in managing cultural assets.

He said that while it was vital to acknowledge past wrongs, the bill’s value extended beyond Wairarapa iwi.

“This shouldn’t just be seen as something that is important to local iwi.

“This should be seen as something that’s important to all of us.

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