Tēnā koutou katoa,

What a year it has been for Te Whakatōhea – another challenging year, as we progress towards an enduring settlement for all of Whakatōhea.

On behalf of all our Trustees, we extend a heartfelt mihi to Whakatōhea whānui who stood by the Whakatōhea Pre Settlement Claims Trust throughout 2018. We know this year has been a testing one, and we remain humbled by your support.

Much of the year has been absorbed by the challenges of the Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry, and the resulting iwi-wide voting process that was recommended.

We were pleased to receive the results vote which showed majority support for this Trust and our continued work to achieve a comprehensive settlement for all our people.  We look forward to the Ministers for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and for Māori Development confirming these results so that we can keep moving forward towards settlement.

We had hoped to have a decision on this before Christmas, but this is now looking more likely to be received in the new year.

We want to take this opportunity to assure you that the Trust will continue in its works for all of Te Whakatōhea and we look forward to moving forward with unity to ensure the aspirations of our tīpuna come to life.

Indeed, our Agreement in Principle holds the promise of much opportunity for Te Whakatōhea: a comprehensive settlement of $100 million, it will help us equip our iwi to assert huge authority and influence over and within our rohe in a practical expression of mana whenua and mana moana, and in social terms help generate jobs to ensure that our people can return home and prosper. You can read more about what the AIP includes here.

Additional to our settlement, we were pleased with the recent announcement of funding from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for the further development of aquaculture opportunities within our rohe.  This is very much aligned with, and will enhance, the outcomes that will be achieved for Whakatōhea through the negotiations with the Crown. The PGF funding includes $935,000 for the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board to prepare a business case to accelerate aquaculture developments in Whakatōhea rohe moana, and $19,850,000 to be invested in the development of a sustainable mussel farming and production facility in Ōpōtiki. You can read more about all the projects receiving support from the PGF in our region here.

This is exciting news and we look forward to seeing our people spearheading this growing industry through our settlement, and providing opportunities for the people of Ōpōtiki.  As Whakatōhea, we work together to grow what we believe are the best mussels in the world. We can go even further in creating opportunities for our iwi, hapū and whānau when we realise the 5000ha of marine space we have negotiated in our settlement for Whakatōhea.

We look forward to 2019, and our big hope is that it will be the year where we can transform our Agreement in Principle into the Deed of Settlement for all our iwi to vote upon. We are also keen to ensure a comprehensive historic account is included in our settlement. We will continue to keep you updated on any developments relating to the Crown decision on the vote, our settlement negotiations, and how you can be involved.

Now, Christmas is almost here, and we, your Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trustees wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We hope you stay safe this festive season, and get to enjoy quality time with whānau. Mā te Atua e manaaki, e arahia, e tiaki hoki i ā tātou katoa i roto i te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou ka heke mai nei.

Nākū noa, nā

Graeme Riesterer