Ngāti Mutunga ki Wharekauri looks forward to 'new era'

By Kelvin McDonald
Photo / File

Ngāti Mutunga has marked a significant milestone towards the settlement of its historical Treaty of Waitangi claims related to Wharekauri, Chatham Islands after signing an agreement in principle with the Crown this week.

The agreement includes a $13 million financial settlement, cultural redress involving the option for the transfer of culturally significant lands to Ngāti Mutunga ki Wharekauri, and shared redress between the iwi and Moriori.

There are also formal Crown acknowledgements that Wharekauri was unjustifiably annexed in 1842 without any effort to consult with the iwi, and that Ngāti Mutunga was prejudiced under native land laws awarding land to individuals rather than iwi or hapū.

"In many ways, the treaty relationship has never recovered from that poor start. So this is a chance to reset the whole relationship between the government and Ngāti Mutunga people here, and we look forward to a new era," the iwi's lead negotiator, Tom McClurg, told RNZ. 

Ngāti Mutunga is the second of two iwi/imi to reach agreement with the Crown in terms of Wharekauri, Rēkohu. The first was Moriori, who settled last year.

Treaty Minister Andrew Little said the agreement was a step towards an "enduring partnership".

"While no settlement can truly compensate for the past injustices Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri have endured, it is my sincere hope that today's Agreement in Principle paves the way towards reaching a comprehensive settlement and enduring partnership between Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri and the Crown." 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern travelled to Wharekauri on Friday to officially open the islands' new museum.

"This is a really significant opportunity to be here, to finally talk directly with those locals who've been advocating for a number of the things that we've been able to make some progress on today," Ardern said.

The PM was accompanied by several Labour politicians, including Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene and Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis.

"Among the many highlights of today was seeing both Iwi of the Chathams: Ngāti Mutunga and Moriori together on the paepae, joined by the whole community to welcome the PM," Tirikatene said on social media.