On 5 September 2018 the Waitangi Tribunal published its pre-release report on Te Rohe Pōtae - The King Country.
“The Tribunal’s report is welcomed by Te Rūnanganui o Ngāti Hikairo” said Moka Apiti, Rūnanga Chair. “It confirms our status as an iwi in the Rohe Pōtae, something we have worked hard to get the Crown and Crown agencies to recognise.”
Ngāti Hikairo is based in Kāwhia and the iwi borders Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato. It became a member of the original King Country pact, Te Ōhāki Tapu in the mid-1800s and has maintained its tribal autonomy in the region since 1995 working through its iwi authority Te Rūnanganui o Ngāti Hikairo.
“In the mid-1800s Ngāti Hikairo lost its lands and its rights on Kāwhia Harbour and the people dispersed in order to survive, said Tony Spelman, Secretary, Te Rūnanganui o Ngāti Hikairo. “Today, this helpful declaration from the Tribunal marks the beginnings of a revival in the fortunes of the tribe.”
“There is a renewed sense of hope in Kāwhia at the present time,” said Hone Edwards, Trustee of Waipapa Marae. “We are building a new wharekai at Waipapa which will enable us to host over 250 people against a backdrop of one of the most beautiful views over the Kāwhia harbour that you have ever seen.”
“There are also a number of commercial initiatives under development around Kāwhia” said Brendon Green, Economic Development Leader on the Rūnanga. “These are focussed on our natural resources e.g. our harbour, coastline, forest and maunga. We will celebrate our history through these initiatives in a way that creates whānau interest to return to Kāwhia.”
The Tribunal has declared that the Crown needs to restore the rangatiratanga of Te Rohe Potae claimants and Te Rūnanganui o Ngāti Hikairo looks forward to renegotiating what that looks like across our rohe with central government, and the various units of local government in the near future.
“It is a very exciting time for our people,” says Meto Hopa, kaumātua, “but we don’t underestimate the work needed to grow our capacity to take our rangatiratanga to the next level.”
Mr Apiti said we can only move forward at this time. “Our people have been longing for this moment and are keen to put energy into our future as an iwi in the communities where we live.”