Ngāti Rangitihi iwi members have voted overwhelmingly in support of the Deed of Settlement to settle historical claims for breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi by the Crown.

Voting results were announced today, with 91.79% of those who voted supporting the Ngāti Rangitihi Deed of Settlement.

Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi Trust Chairman, Leith Comer, says he is extremely pleased with the results and the way in which iwi members have recognised the importance of taking part in the four-week ratification process.

“After more than a decade, to be able to reach this critical milestone today, is truly a special moment for all the descendants of Ngāti Rangitihi,” he says.

“On behalf of the Trust, I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those who voted and played a part, including our iwi members, and our Negotiators and Trustees who have worked tirelessly for this settlement.”

Mr Comer also acknowledges all Ngāti Rangitihi claimants who submitted Waitangi Tribunal claims for Te Tiriti o Waitangi breaches by the Crown.

“Our mokopuna will benefit in the future, but we must not forget those who started the journey for us.”

Mr Comer says this settlement will help achieve key aspirations for the Iwi.

“This settlement means we will be rightfully acknowledged as the kaitiaki and owners of our whenua, and we will help lead the way in the restoration of Tarawera awa — our life force.”

The Ngāti Rangitihi Deed of Settlement comprises 500 pages of significant detail, which includes an Historic Account, Crown Acknowledgements of how and when it breached Te Tiriti, and the Crown’s Apology.

It sets out the return of more than 500 hectares of culturally significant lands, relationship agreements with Government agencies, and an entity to restore and protect Tarawera Awa (with $500,000 of funding), as well as Financial Redress of $11.3 million.

The Deed of Settlement also enables strong relationships with neighbouring iwi, including Tūhourangi, Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa (Bay of Plenty), as Ngāti Rangitihi Iwi move forward into the future.

Mr Comer says it was important to communicate the detail of the settlement to iwi members so that they fully understood what was on the table to vote on, and why.

“This was done through a comprehensive voting information pack, regular pānui (newsletters), information hui, social media and livestreaming. Due to COVID-19 resurfacing in the middle of our ratification, we were unable to carry out some of our engagement kanohi ki te kanohi – but we quickly adapted by holding livestream sessions so whānau could still ask their questions,” he says.

The voting results are now with the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Hon Andrew Little and the Minister for Māori Development Hon Nanaia Mahuta, who will decide if the results show ‘sufficient support’.

“There is no doubt in our minds that we have fulfilled the criteria required by the Crown — the ratification process followed was robust, and the results are positive, with 35.85% registered adult members voting.”

If the results receive Ministerial approval, a signing ceremony will be held later this year.

“We look forward to having all Ngāti Rangitihi uri join in the celebration,” says Mr Comer.

Once the settlement is signed, and then enacted through Parliament, Te Mana, as the approved Post-Settlement Governance Entity, will receive the settlement redress.

“There is also still some work to do – this part of our mahi has been about getting the settlement across the line, and the next part after the signing will be electing new Trustees to take the Trust into the future,” says Mr Comer.

These new Trustees will be responsible for developing the future strategic plan of the Trust and to establish social, cultural and economic developments that will benefit all the descendants of Ngāti Rangitihi.

“We encourage our people, especially our rangatahi, our future leaders, to get involved in this next stage of the journey.”