Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust has today signed an Agreement in Principle with the Crown at Parliament, which it says is a positive step towards settling its historical Treaty of Waitangi claims.
Chairman Graeme Riesterer says Whakatōhea first attempted to settle its raupatu (land confiscation) claims against the Crown over 20 years ago, and is pleased to be getting closer to achieving what its kaumātua set out to do so long ago.
“Today’s signing of the Agreement in Principle is an important milestone for us,” he says.
“Our kaumātua struggled for so long and endured so much hardship to achieve this settlement, and we owe it to them to complete this journey.”
Kaumātua and Trustee Bruce Pukepuke says the settlement is about much more than financial redress, as the iwi can never be adequately compensated for the huge losses they endured.
“This settlement is about us as a people, rediscovering our Whakatōhea identity and coming together as one,” says Mr Pukepuke.
“Although this is a Crown process, it is also an opportunity for our iwi, hapū and whānau to reconnect with our hau kāinga.
“We believe it will allow our people to begin to heal.”
Over the past year Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust has held hui throughout Aotearoa, seeking to ensure that the views and aspirations of Whakatōhea are reflected in any settlement outcome.
Mr Riesterer says the Trust has been encouraged by feedback from its people around the progress that has been made to date.
“We appreciate that not all our whānau will agree, but we are focused on working to get the best outcome for all of Whakatōhea.
“Our role is to ensure our iwi can look to a brighter future, and facilitate them to thrive culturally, socially, and economically,” Mr Riesterer says.
Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson praised the signing, “Today’s agreement is a great achievement and a reflection of the positive and principled approach to negotiations taken by Whakatōhea’s leaders and negotiators.
“The long overdue agreement with Whakatōhea addresses serious breaches of the Treaty by the Crown including the confiscation of large stretches of Whakatōhea land which forced many iwi members to move to inadequate reserves.”
The agreements outline broad settlement packages which include Crown apologies as well as financial, commercial and cultural redress.
The Trust will now negotiate the details of the settlement with the Crown, in the hopes of reaching a draft Deed of Settlement in the next 12 to 18 months.
Trustees are calling on all Whakatōhea descendants to register and play a part in the journey.
“If you whakapapa to Whakatōhea, it is your birth-right to be a part of this.”
For more information visit www.whakatoheapresettlement.org.nz