The Wairarapa Times Age 31-03-2014,
By Nathan Crombie

The longest walk home is almost over for the landless people of Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamaki-Nui-o-Rua.

Rangitāne trustees on Friday signed an agreement in principle with Waitangi Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson regarding Treaty of Waitangi claims that involve financial redress of $32.5 million and the return to the iwi of seven Crown-owned sites.

The Rangitāne settlement also includes an opportunity for the iwi to acquire commercial properties like Ngaumu Forest and the former Lansdowne School site in Masterton.

Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamaki-nui-a-rua represent 4000 beneficiaries in a region stretching from Wairarapa to Dannevirke, the second-largest ever treaty settlement area.

“Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamaki Nui-a-Rua are virtually landless today due to the actions and omissions of the Crown,” Waitangi Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson said yesterday.

“As a result, since the nineteenth century, they have struggled to maintain their identity and connection with their land and cultural traditions. This agreement will help acknowledge the injustices of the past.” Mr Finlayson said Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre will be transferred to the iwi before the gifting back to the Crown of the area, which was the final remnant of Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga, or Seventy Mile Bush, that once blanketed much of northern Wairarapa and Tararua districts and held significant spiritual and cultural value to Rangitāne.

Jason Kerehi, Rangitāne o Wairarapa chief executive and settlement negotiator, said the signing of the hard-fought agreement in principle was “a red letter day” for Rangitāne.

He said a deed of settlement, which iwi need to ratify, is expected to be consummated within 18 months before becoming law. Rangitāne Tu Mai Ra Trust will receive reparation and start work “to rebuild the cultural identity and economic base of Rangitāne”.

“There have been numerous government contracts, government initiatives, green papers, white papers. Now it’s about our plans, our needs, and our commitment to each other,” Mr Kerehi said.

“I don’t believe it means puffing out our chests but we should be proud. It’s a new day. It’s about making our own decisions. That’s the reality of it.”

Mr Kerehi said vital to the settlement was the Crown acknowledgement Rangitāne was an iwi of Wairarapa and Tamaki Nui-a-Rua that was left landless since 1900, having lost about 600,000 hectares of property over two years from 1853.

In 1989 Rangitāne o Wairarapa won recognition as an iwi and submitted its WAI175 claim and in 2010 a Waitangi Tribunal report was released that found 19th century Crown officers without full iwi consent had bought land in “ruthless and reckless fashion”, failed to offer and maintain land reserves, and denied access to customary resources.

The report also acknowledged the loss to Rangitāne hapu of their tribal autonomy and identity.

Rangitāne o Wairarapa claimants James Rimene and Manahi Paewai were excited by the “cultural revitalisation opportunities” the settlement will provide. Both believed strong cultural identity, together with quality education, is the key to success and the settlement can provide “a springboard for these to occur in a Maori-Rangitāne context”.

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