Tuku Whenua — gifting of treasured lands

Department of Conservation —  31/01/2017

Earlier this month at Tangoio Marae, the Crown fulfilled their Settlement obligation to return four reserves to Hapū represented by the Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust. Four days later, the Hapū gifted these lands to the people of Aotearoa.

The signing ceremony at Tangoio marae. Photo: Lauren Buchholz

The signing ceremony at Tangoio marae

Mike Slater, DOC’s Tumuaki – Kahui Matarautaki, had the honour of receiving the lands gifted to the people of Aotearoa.

“I’m deeply humbled to be representing the people of New Zealand and to receive these precious taonga on their behalf,” he said.

The sites gifted included Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve, Bellbird Bush Scenic Reserve, and the balance of Opouahi Scenic Reserve in the Maungaharuru Range, as well as the coastal Whakaari Landing Place Reserve.

Ngā Uri o Pania sings a waiata during the Maungaharuru-Tangitū gift-back ceremony. Photo: Lauren Buchholz

Ngā Uri o Pania sings a waiata during the Maungaharuru-Tangitū gift-back ceremony

Shayne Walker, Kaiwhakahaere Matua, General Manager of Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust, said, “This koha of reserves to the people of Aotearoa is not only an acknowledgement of the traditional Hapū ownership and the illegal confiscation by the Crown, it also signifies the preparedness and generosity of the Hapū to the Hawke’s Bay community and our eco-system.”

There was a lot of media interest around this generous gift – see items from Māori Television, News Collective and the New Zealand Herald.

Mike and a team of staff from the DOC National Office in Wellington flew up for the occasion and were supported by the team in the Hawke’s Bay DOC office.

It was a hot day in Napier on the 18th of January. Like, swelter-in-your-seat and stick-to everything-you-touch, kind of hot. Naturally, back in Wellington there was a weather bomb, but that’s another story.

Manuhiri were welcomed to Tangoio Marae by tangata whenua and honoured with the formal pōwhiri proceedings. There was a protester who voiced his anger over the signing, which was mentioned on Māori TV’s coverage of the whole event, but the mauri of the day remained.

Kaumātua Bevan Taylor, Kaumātua Tamehana Manaena, and DOC Deputy Director-General Operations Mike Slater with the mere pounamu gifted from DOC to Maungaharuru-Tangitū. Photo: Lauren Buchholz

Kaumātua Bevan Taylor, Kaumātua Tamehana Manaena, and DOC Deputy Director-General Operations Mike Slater with the mere pounamu gifted from DOC to Maungaharuru-Tangitū

During whaikōrero, Mike emphasised our increased understanding of the significance of this land:

“These four reserves are much more to Te Papa Atawhai than biodiversity and public utilities – we now have a better understanding and appreciation of their significance. This kaupapa is now embodied in Poutiri Ao ō Tane – a shared project which is restoring the cloak of Papatuanuku.”

Tangoio Marae was awash with generosity and graciousness that day.

Kuia Charmaine Butler, Kaumātua Bevan Taylor, and Te Putahitanga Joe Harawira with the mere pounamu gifted from DOC to Maungaharuru-Tangitū. Photo: Lauren Buchholz

Kuia Charmaine Butler, Kaumātua Bevan Taylor, and Te Putahitanga Joe Harawira with the mere pounamu gifted from DOC to Maungaharuru-Tangitū

Maungaharuru-Tangitū have waited a very long time to have their land returned, and to receive it and then gift it back clearly demonstrates the leadership role of iwi in conservation.

Iwi are trusting DOC to care for this precious taonga, and safeguard it for future generations.

As Mike said at the marae, “Te Papa Atawhai looks forward to building on the strong relationship it already has with Maungararuru Tangitu and deepening the partnership outlined in Te Kawenata.”

It is a privilege to be given this special taonga to look after.

DOC are honoured.