Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi Trust (Te Mana) and Tūhourangi Tribal Authority (TTA) are pleased to announce that one year on since the Deed of Undertaking was signed between the two Iwi, they have been successful in jointly negotiating with the Crown for the return of culturally significant lands at Waimangu and Otūkapuarangi.

This milestone means Ngāti Rangitihi has resolved the overlapping claim issues it has with Tūhourangi and can proceed with voting on its Deed of Settlement. If the Ngāti Rangitihi Deed of Settlement is ratified and signed, Tūhourangi will then be able to have land returned that was not available when it settled with the Crown in 2007.

This pioneering agreement for the return of lands that were once the centre of many historic disputes for both Iwi, will mean Ngāti Rangithi and Tūhourangi stand to be both the joint business and landowners of Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This includes 80 hectares of concession land, currently leased from the Department of Conservation, for the operation of the eco-tourism business Waimangu Volcanic Valley Limited. The annual concession fee will now be paid to the joint Iwi owners instead of to the Department of Conservation.

Te Mana Chairman, Leith Comer says this process has provided a unique opportunity for the two Iwi to work together to pursue common objectives at Tarawera.

“This agreement recognises the close overlap of Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi in a special part of the world, which features significantly in both our tribal stories,” says Mr Comer.

“Through this journey, we have rediscovered our close whakapapa, historical and cultural ties and we look forward to a strong, enduring and positive relationship with Tūhourangi post-settlement.

“Ngāti Rangitihi is pleased that, together with Tūhourangi, our people can now truly own and be the kaitiaki of Waimangu, and further develop our eco-tourism business there.

“We are happy that we have been able to use the Treaty Settlement process to enable Tūhourangi to have the land at Otūkapuarangi returned to them — this area is of particular cultural significance to them and was originally part of the land awarded to them by the Native Land Court,” says Mr Comer.

TTA Chairman Alan Skipwith says that in achieving such a result through the joint negotiations, the concerns regarding overlapping interests at Tarawera and Rotomahana have been addressed, enabling the Ngāti Rangitihi settlement negotiations to be completed, so that Te Mana can bring to Ngāti Rangitihi members a Deed of Settlement to vote on.

“The agreement will see mutual benefits for both Iwi and signals a new era in post-Treaty Settlement relationships among neighbouring Iwi,” says Mr Skipwith.

Both Iwi acknowledge that this outcome would not would not have been possible without the vision and collaboration of all those who were committed to this innovative approach to resolving overlapping interests: the Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi negotiators; Minister Little and the team from Te Arawhiti; and also the tīpuna and koeke of both Iwi, past and present.

“This work has been ongoing since 2015 and we should all be very proud of the outcome and the return of these hugely historical Tūhourangi tribal lands at Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Otūkapuarangi,” says Mr Skipwith.

“Putting aside our differences in this way, despite the mamae of the past, will enable Tūhourangi and Ngāti Rangitihi to continue working together to develop the cultural, economic and environmental values of our whenua, through sustainable environmental tourism.

“The return to Iwi of the lands at Waimangu and Otūkapuarangi will mean that our future generations can reconnect with the tribal lands that their ancestors once roamed.”

Ngāti Rangitihi will be able to vote on their Deed of Settlement from Friday 24 July to Sunday 23 August 2020. If the Deed of Settlement is approved, the agreements between Te Mana and TTA will come into effect once the Ngāti Rangitihi settlement has passed through legislation in 2022.

“We encourage all of Ngāti Rangitihi to ensure they are registered so they can vote and have their say on this important part of our settlement journey,” says Mr Comer.

“This settlement is a comprehensive one, that will unlock immense value for Ngāti Rangitihi.”