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Relief and pride at signing

Jason Kerehi
Jason Kerehi

By Gerald Ford

Rangitane o Wairarapa lead negotiator Jason Kerehi has returned from Dannevirke relieved and challenged after the historic Crown apology and $32.5 million Treaty settlement signing on Saturday.

More than 300 people gathered at Makirikiri Marae to see the signing of a Treaty of Waitangi Deed of Settlement with the Crown and Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua.

The day was attended by MPs, Crown officials and local government officials, as well as iwi members including kaumatua.

The signing was part of a process stretching back many years and Mr Kerehi said it was good so many kaumatua were able to attend.

“So many people have died along the way,” Mr Kerehi said.

“From the time we were mandated to negotiate it’s been five-and-a-half years,” he said.

“But it’s not about speed.”

Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson read an apology and signed the deed of settlement on behalf of the Crown.

“It was really for me a day of mixed emotions,” Mr Kerehi said.

“I mean I was excited. It was such an important milestone.

“But as we got into the day and came to the apology, it really dawned on you that it was a moment in time.

“We invited everyone to sign, and the feeling in the room just lifted.

“It was relief, it was a celebration, it was a moment of pride… what a day.”

The settlement sees the return of eight culturally significant sites to the iwi, including Matua Pa, which is the site of the former Lansdowne School, and another school site in Dannevirke.

There are other sites, including Wairarapa Moana (Lake Wairarapa and its surrounds) and Castlepoint, which have been part of joint negotiations with Kahunguni ki Wairarapa – which also has its own negotiations with the Crown.

“There’s a big job to do from now on,” Mr Kerehi said.

Decisions would need to be made about what to do with the property returned to the iwi, which included financial considerations – “they can’t make a loss” Mr Kerehi said, further investment and other considerations. “For example if they can provide other things like jobs or services that people need.”

“The work now is moving into strategic.”

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