Cheers roared through both Parliament and Pipitea Marae in Wellington Thursday, as the crown and Ngāti Maniapoto reached a settlement.
By Ashleigh McCaull for RNZ
The King Country iwi has one of the largest remaining treaty settlements, costing around $177 million and involving a range of cultural redress.
Thursday morning started with a convoy from Maniapoto packing out Pipitea Marae, after travelling down Te Ika a Maui by both train and bus.
They came to see the third and final reading of their settlement, one that has been a long time coming.
"I'm 21, so that fight has started before I was even born, so it's cool to see in my lifetime how long it's taken and we are finally here," Gemma Guiney said.
Maggie Taite said: "I'm one of five sisters here today. Why we should be here? - Because it's about our nannies. They would be crying because they'd be emotional and they'd be proud because the mokopuna is following in their journey."
"Finally... finally, in my time. I didn't think it would, but thank goodness," Mary Sulfa said.
At dawn, they came to Pipitea Marae, for a ceremony that started with the taiaha, Maungārongo, being presented to the crown.
It was initially gifted in 1885, but the government rejected it, and it spent 140 years in the South Island, most recently at Otago Museum.
It has been gifted back to the crown for five years, and Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little was adamant it would take its kaitiaki role seriously this time.
"There's a cabinet already prepared, ready for it to sit in and to be cared for in and I think this is the responsibility of all parliament, the crown and parliament to make sure we look after the taonga as an expression of the care that we want to take with the new relationship. So I'm confident we will do that," Little said.
Today's settlement included relationship agreements, the return of 36 sites, and the right of first refusal in the King Country.
But significantly, there was an apology.
The chair of the settlement entity, Te Nehenehenui, Bella Takiari-Brame, said the negotiations of the past 30 years have been difficult.
"It's always a journey right and it just means a lot more. We've got a stronger foundation to start with and we have come together. We are more united because we have taken that time.
"Not everyone's in the whare with us yet but we will continue to have that kōrero, we know what it takes," Takiari-Brame said.
Maniapoto country was a sanctuary for refugees in the Waikato Wars; it then maintained self-government for many years afterwards.
It lifted its boundaries in the 1880s after an agreement with the crown to recognise mana whakahaere, but that was largely ignored.
By the 20th century, crown schemes and aggressive buying had rendered Maniapoto largely landless.
Today, the crown returned the land on which the railway lies. Takiari-Brame said it was being gifted straight back to the country.
"It will be handed to us but it will go straight back to KiwiRail. That ownership - obviously we have a first right of refusal for over 170 years on the railway from now on, so it provides us options noting that we gave up a lot to allow the railway through," he said.
Celebration rang out at both parliament and Pipitea Marae when the final reading passed, followed by waiata and haka.