Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi Trust (Te Mana) and Tūhourangi Tribal Authority (TTA) have announced that they will jointly negotiate with the Crown for the return of the lands at Waimangu and Otūkapuarangi. These lands have been at the centre of many historical disputes between the two Iwi.

The signing of a Deed of Undertaking which took place at Waimangu Volcanic Valley on Monday 22 July, enables the two Iwi to commence these negotiations and represents a unique opportunity for both Iwi: for Tūhourangi to have land returned that was not available when it settled with the Crown in 2009; and for Ngāti Rangitihi to resolve overlapping claim issues it has with Tūhourangi.

Te Mana Chairman Leith Comer says this is a significant milestone for Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi. It is an opportunity for both Iwi to put the differences behind them, despite the mamae (hurt) of the past.

“The land we’re negotiating is the land we once shed blood over,” says Mr Comer.

“Now, through the Treaty Settlement process, we are choosing to work together for the return of land for the mutual benefit of both Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi.”

TTA Chairman Alan Skipwith says the signing of the Deed marks an important chapter in the relationship between the two Iwi.

“For us, it represents recognition between our two Iwi, of the strong whakapapa hononga and our shared whenua interests at Tarawera,” says Mr Skipwith.

“Importantly we are able to accept and respect each other’s differing stories about our historical existence at Tarawera.

“We are excited to be moving ahead together to ensure these culturally significant lands return to the hands of Tūhourangi and Ngāti Rangitihi, so that future generations can reconnect with their tribal lands.”

Both Iwi have a long-standing emotional connection with the area once world famous for the Pink and White Terraces. These Terraces were destroyed in the devastating eruption of 1886, which caused a great loss of life and destruction of much of the landscape.

“Annual activities to commemorate the 1886 eruption are always solemn, reflective and sad for both our iwi,” says Mr Comer.

“These feelings only strengthen the resolve of Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi to work together to regain ownership of these culturally significant lands.

“The inclusion and return of these lands by way of the Ngāti Rangitihi settlement would be a significant step towards closure for both Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi,” says Mr Comer.

In 2017, Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūhourangi jointly purchased Waimangu Volcanic Valley Limited, an eco-tourism experience south of Rotorua which includes sightseeing tours looking at the unique ecology, rare botany and fascinating geothermal features of the Valley including steaming volcanic crater lakes.

Mr Skipwith says the signing of the Deed between the two Iwi shows an enduring commitment to work together, which will enable Tūhourangi and Ngāti Rangitihi to continue developing the cultural, economic and environmental values of their whenua, and lead the way in sustainable environmental tourism.

“We have shown through our partnership at Waimangu Volcanic Valley that we are good stewards of our whenua, and we are looking forward to being able to extend this to those areas that are of cultural significance to us,” he says.