Whakatōhea to vote on $100 million Crown settlement

By Kelvin McDonald

In mid-October, voting will open for Whakatōhea iwi members to decide whether to accept a $100 million settlement with the Crown.

A six-week voting period opens on 15 October, during which voting-age descendants of the eastern Bay of Plenty iwi will get to have their say - and potentially bring an end to more than two decades of negotiation.

"It's been 25 long years to get to this stage, where we are now able to take the claim that we have negotiated with the Crown back to the people to ask them to say yes or no," Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust chair, Graeme Riesterer, told RNZ.

The settlement includes a Crown apology, $100 million, the return of 6692ha of land, the allocation of 5000ha of marine space, and the ability to continue having claims heard by the Waitangi Tribunal.

"The real value of our Settlement lies in the 5000ha of marine space which will create numerous opportunities for our whānau now that the Ōpōtiki harbour development project is underway. Over time we expect the value of the aquaculture business to exceed the financial value of the Settlement," the Trust's website says.

In a vote earlier this month, a petition by Te Ūpokorehe hapū to be removed from the Whakatōhea settlement was overruled by 61 per cent of Whakatōhea.

Riesterer says he is hopeful the end is now in sight.

"I would hope that we would be able to sign the Deed of Settlement before Christmas of this year. That would mean that all of Whakatōhea would be able to have a good Christmas present," he told RNZ.