Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust (the Trust) has welcomed the Waitangi Tribunal’s decision this week to hold a district inquiry into claims for the north-eastern Bay of Plenty area.

While the results of the Whakatōhea vote in November last year showed majority support for the Trust to continue to negotiate a settlement for the Iwi, it also illustrated that an independent Waitangi Tribunal inquiry was important to a significant number of Iwi members.

Chairman Graeme Riesterer says that the Trust has strongly advocated to the Crown to allow a Waitangi Tribunal hearing to occur either alongside or even after negotiations are completed.

“Our people believe it is important to have our stories and history told so we are heartened that the Waitangi Tribunal had finally granted an inquiry, especially, given that the initial Whakatōhea claims were filed over 30 years ago.”

However, the Trust believes the Tribunal should revisit its chosen boundaries as they have cut off the western and southern reaches of the Whakatōhea rohe. This means that the proposed inquiry can’t look into all aspects of the Whakatōhea claims.

“We would have thought that an inquiry into our grievances would have at least been comprehensive. However, with the district inquiry now confirmed, the Trust will continue to work with our people and the Crown to progress settlement negotiations to create a win-win situation for Whakatōhea,” says Mr Riesterer.

Mr Riesterer says the Trust remains committed to continued engagement with all Whakatōhea to broaden support for a settlement.

“We are hopeful that we can transform our Agreement in Principle into a Deed of Settlement for all our Iwi to vote on in the future,” says Mr Riesterer.

“We urge all Whakatōhea uri to come along with us on this journey, so that together we can begin to heal the wounds of the past and bring about a prosperous future for our people.”