Harbour islands back in Maori hands after 140 years

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(Source | Dominion Post – Britton Broun) Three islands in Wellington Harbour have been returned to Maori after 140 years ensuring they remain places of tranquility and healing, the new owners say.

Several hundred people from as far away as Taranaki and the South Island mingled with civic leaders and politicians on Matiu Island also known as Somes Island yesterday morning as the conservation reserve was officially handed over to iwi.

Along with Makaro/Ward and Mokopuna islands, it was part of the multimillion-dollar Port Nicholson Treaty deal that became law last year. Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust head Sir Ngatata Love, who spoke alongside Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson yesterday, said the future of the islands was not only safe, but would be enhanced. “We came together in a very real way.”

Although there had been fortified pa on Matiu, it always had the quality of a sanctuary something Sir Ngatata wanted to ensure remained.

“It’s more of a resting place and it has a positive history for iwi who lived there over the centuries.

[Today] it’s become a great place for schools to visit, a great place to see the tranquility of the harbour in a totally different way. We want to ensure people can come there and take time out, like a place of healing.”

Matiu Island was a quarantine station in the 19th century, and housed “enemy aliens” during wartime. It has been a conservation reserve since 1995. It will now be administered by the Harbour Islands Kaitiaki Board.

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