By Vaimaila Leatinu'u, Te Rito journalism cadet.
Maniapoto Claims Settlement Bill has passed its third reading, the final milestone in the iwi's historical Treaty of Waitangi settlement. More than 800 Maniapoto descendants travelled to Wellington by bus, plane and train to witness the final reading.
It was a historic train journey for descendants of Maniapoto who were farewelled by their whanaunga at stops in Kirikiriroa, Te Kuiti and Paraparaumu.
“We Ngāti Maniapoto in the 1850s, we had prospects and were a quite wealthy iwi. We owned our own ships and exported food around the world. With the raupatu of our neighbour and various legislation, it was ripped away from us. With this settlement, we have a foot up to returning to where our tupuna were 200 years ago,” Kaumātua Kaunihera o Te Nehenehenui member Dr Tom Roa said today.
Te Ōhaki Tapu, the railway access the iwi granted in the 19th century opened up Te Rohe Pōtae's main trade areas. People who tried to enter without permission lost their lives but the railway gave access for the government to take land.
“It's an important day for the Crown to acknowledge its failings, its breaches of Te Tiriti and, as minister, it's good to be part of the start of a journey for reconciliation,” Minister of Treaty Negotiations Andrew Little said.
History made for Ngāti Maniapoto.
At a dawn ceremony early this morning at Pipitea, the commitment of the settlement was signified with the handing over of a taiaha, Maungārongo.
“We want to empower our people to be strong in who they are," post-settlement governance entity Te Nehenehenui chairperson Bella Takiari-Brame said. "We want to provide opportunities for them to come home. It's the main thing about this settlement but it's also a chance to move on.
"We look forward to working with the Crown to address some of those inequities, on a level playing field as part of this,” she said.
The settlement package provides Maniapoto with financial and commercial redress of $165 million and the return of thirty-six sites of cultural significance. It also includes the return of the railway, which Maniapoto will gift back to Aotearoa.
“Te Ara a Tūrongo is coming back to us. We are giving it straight back to Kiwi Rail. It is the expert; it knows how to look after the railway. We continue to have the first right of refusal around any lands in regards to that railway for the next 170 years. There is options for our future generations.”
Maniapoto will host government officials at Te Kuiti Pā on December 4.