ŌPŌTIKI, Wednesday 3 June 2020: Covid-19 has not stopped a North Island Iwi from continuing to ready itself for a vote this year, that if ratified will be one of the largest Treaty settlement to date.
Whakatōhea is located in the eastern Bay of Plenty region centred around Ōpōtiki, with their rohe extending eastwards from Ohiwa Harbour to Opape along the coastline, and inland to Matawai.
The Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Trust (WPCT) with the support of Whakatōhea whānau are in the middle of creating history by negotiating with the Crown to reach a Settlement that will benefit all of Whakatōhea. The Settlement is currently valued at $100 million, plus significant returns of moana (sea) and whenua (land).
Only seven Settlements have been more than $100 million and Whakatōhea has the highest per person ratio, in that all of the others have had significantly higher populations.
Unusually, for the first time ever, the tribe has been granted a Parallel Process, where they are progressing with negotiations with the Crown and have a Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry underway simultaneously. This means Whakatōhea whānau have the ability to have all their grievances heard in parallel and subsequent to the completion of their Settlement negotiations. Whatatōhea Pre Settlement Trust chair (WPCT), Graeme Riesterer, says the Trust has been busy in their respective bubbles during lockdown.
“In February we held hui around the rohe and our people turned out in their droves to voice their views and vision on the Settlement. Social media became our connecting medium in lockdown and we got to see and hear many of our whānau voices.
“The connections forged over lockdown reminded us what Settlement is really about, which is the opportunity to decide and design what a healthy Whakatōhea nation looks like.
“Key to the outcomes will be jobs, health and wellbeing, cultural revitalisation, and further investment into the Ōpōtiki harbour. If our Whakatōhea whānau do not accept Settlement, it’ll be another 10-15 years before this process can start again, and we will miss out on opportunities that should rightfully be ours,” he says.
During Level 3, the WPCT put out a survey to drill down on what Whakatōhea thought of various topics relating to Settlement including identifying core values, visions and what the structure of the Post-Settlement Governance Entity (PSGE) could look like.
“It is important to us that throughout this Settlement process, we hear all views and ideas, we need to capture the whānau voice. Running a survey is one way for us to get this vital intel,” he says.
Given there are 15,000 Whakatōhea whānau, some who live in the rohe but many who live around New Zealand and the world, the WPCT will soon start monthly Zui (Zoom meetings) where whānau can tune in and hear experts within the tribe discussing topics relevant to Settlement.