(stuff.co.nz) North Island tribe Tuhoe is celebrating a historic agreement with the Crown over the ownership of Te Urewera National Park.
Under a deal announced today, the Crown will no longer own the National Park, which will be vested in a new legal identify created by legislation.
An establishment board will initially comprise equal numbers of Crown and Tuhoe nominees. Over time Tuhoe representation is expected to grow.
Ngai Tuhoe will also receive redress valued at about $170 million, putting their settlement on a par with two of the country’s biggest iwi, Ngai Tahu and Tainui.
In a statement, Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finalyson said the Crown and Ngai Tuhoe would work together to develop a deed of settlement by the end of the year, finalising the deal.
“Ngai Tuhoe’s history shows clearly why it is so important to settle genuine historic Treaty grievances,” Finalyson said.
“The conditions in Te Urewera, which contains some of our most deprived and isolated communities, show the very real and continued effects of the Crown’s Treaty breaches on the daily lives of Ngai Tuhoe people in the present.”
Huge areas of Tuhoe land were wrongly confiscated and more purchased unjustly, Finlayson said.
“Military campaigns against Tuhoe prisoners and civilians were described even at the time as extermination and the Crown employed a scorched earth policy in Tuhoe settlements.”
There has been a rocky history of negotiations with Tuhoe over their historic grievance. In 2010 the Government botched negotiations after earlier leading Tuhoe to believe they had a deal to take over ownership of the Urewera National Park.
Members of the tribe had their air travel and motels booked to celebrate the deal when Prime Minister John Key told Tuhoe negotiator Tamati Kruger handing over the park to Tuhoe was “a bridge too far”.
Kruger said yesterday he believed the tribe had ultimately won what it was seeking, which was control over the park. But Finlayson refused to concede that despite being pressed.