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A “momentous day” has seen Ngāti Kearoa-Ngāti Tuara hapū take a step closer to securing the return of land from Rotorua Lakes Council.
The hapū signed a heads of agreement with the council at Tarewa Pounamu Marae on Saturday that seeks to address past grievances.
This includes the return of land associated with Karamu Takina springs - which supplies drinking water to Rotorua city - and two other pieces of land (Pururu North Reserve (tennis courts) and land at Tihi-o-tonga).
“It is 67 years since our hapū leaders agreed to support the community by providing water for the town. However, they didn’t agree to their lands being sold," Robyn Bargh, Chair of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kearoa Ngāti Tuara, said in a statement Sunday.
“Over the following few years, the then Council took parcels of land under the Public Works Act until Council ‘owned’ over 14 acres (almost 6 hectares).
“Rotorua Lakes Council have agreed that the council doesn’t need to own the land. The Karamu Takina Spring can be co-managed with iwi. This is a wonderful, landmark decision for Rotorua Lakes Council."
Bargh said the council has done the right thing.
"They not only understand the importance of co-governance with iwi, they have had the courage to make it happen.”
“It is fitting the signing ceremony was held at Tarewa as the Agreement also includes the return of lands gifted by our kaumatua, Patu Ruhi, in the 1960s for use as the Tarewa Tennis Courts. Council no longer requires these lands so they are also being returned to the iwi."
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Mayor Steve Chadwick said the occasion marked council’s formal acknowledgement of past wrongs.
“The not-so-distant history of the forced sale of your lands and then Council’s failure to meet the obligations of that sale are an uncomfortable truth that had to be acknowledged and addressed.”
“I am sad that it has taken us nearly 70 years to get to this point, but very grateful that we are finally here," she said.