The Government is on the verge of offering the Tuhoe tribe a treaty settlement that could be as groundbreaking as it is controversial.
But the Government is sensitive about just how far it will go.
The Ureweras have long been home to the Tuhoe, and ownership has been with the Government. But that may be about to change, with treaty negotiations under way where Tuhoe could get ownership and control of the national park.
Government sources say handing over Tuhoe ownership of the park is a definite possibility and would be the biggest deal of its kind. The sticking point would be Tuhoe’s desire for total control, with the Government preferring co-management with the Department of Conservation.
And Tuhoe could be in for something much more controversial. Tuhoe sources have told us the first steps towards separate Tuhoe rule are also on the table under what’s called ‘mana motuhake’. The tribe wants Government functions like schools, health and welfare handed over to Tuhoe, with other functions – even tax – devolved over time.
The Tuhoe deal was considered by ministers today with negotiations based on three pillars: ownership and or control of the Ureweras – public access would be guaranteed; mana motuhake – self-rule; and money – around $100 million in compensation.
Tuhoe leaders did not want to come on camera, preferring to wait for the Government’s official response.
High-profile Tuhoe member Tame Iti said New Zealanders had nothing to fear from the deal.
Tuhoe’s tensions with the Crown date back 170 years to sweeping land confiscation and military attacks.
We could know later this year whether Tuhoe is any closer to getting the resolution it wants.
By Patrick Gower