NZDF land symbolically returned to Ngāti Rangi

By Regan Paranihi

Today Central North Island iwi Ngāti Rangi was given back 77 hectares of their ancestral land at Te Irirangi, south of Waiouru.

It was symbolically returned by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) as part of the Ngāti Rangi Treaty of Waitangi deed of settlement signed on 10 March 2018.

Even though the land will be gifted back to the NZDF for defence purposes, the iwi says today's gesture still has value.

The gesture has helped strengthen the relationship between Ngāti Rangi, the Crown and the NZDF.

Che Wilson (Ngāti Rangi) says, "We are looking for a pathway to revive the lands out here."

Chief Executive of the Navy, David Proctor, adds, "It's a symbol of unity and partnership and relationships, that's what today indicated - a forward step in the partnership and relationship."

Today's unveiling ceremony also solidified the role Ngāti Rangi have as kaitiaki of this land.

"We're returning it to the traditional custodians and then they will be gifting it back to us for use for operation for the defence of Aotearoa," says Proctor.

Wilson says, "When they are finished with the land, it is believed they will then be returned back to us."

While some people may not agree with the arrangement, Ngāti Rangi says it is a partnership that will benefit the whole country.

"Some are still angry as they think this is outrageous, however, we saw an opportunity that will benefit us as well," says Wilson.

Treaty negotiator and Crown representative Dr John Wood says, "I think we can be very confident that we are not going to go back on the partnership this time."

Ngāti Rangi suffered in the past through its partnership with the Crown.

"The Crown were a terrible partner that abused us and some might say 'are we being an abused partner and returning back for another hiding?,'" Wilson said, as he addressed the visitors at Rakepauma Marae during the welcoming ceremony.

However, Crown and NZDF representatives have assured the tribe the same mistake will not be made twice.

"The Crown just failed to place the significance that they should have done on that relationship and to acknowledge it going forward," says Dr Wood.

Ngāti Rangi will gift the land back to the Crown in the coming week.