Taranaki Maunga one step closer to having the legal status of a person

Taranaki Maunga is one step closer to becoming a legal person following the preliminary signing of a collective Treaty settlement today.

It comes 157 years since the mountain was confiscated from Māori, prompting a long and relentless campaign for its return.

"In 1865 the Crown committed one of the most grievous Treaty breaches in this country's history when it confiscated 1.2 million acres of Taranaki land, including the maunga," Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little said.

"It did that to punish those who had taken up arms to protect their lands... the Crown not only failed to recognise the rangatiratanga of the hapū and iwi of Taranki, but treated it with distaine."

The maunga, including the surrounding ranges, were seized under the powers of the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863.

Following the confiscation, the Crown failed to uphold promises to return some of the land, instead proclaiming the mountain a forest reserve and later a National Park.

When pests were introduced, the forest was decimated.

"The relationship between Ngā iwi o Taranaki and the Crown has been characterised by grave Crown failures from almost the very beginning," Little said.

Collective redress over the maunga, initialled today, means it will get greater protection.

"Taranaki or Te Kāhui Tupua will be a legal person in their own right under legislation," lead negotiator Jamie Tuuta said.

"It really reflects how we've always viewed our maunga as ancestors. It will have legal rights and privileges and therefore have standing in partciular processes."

That means it can represented in court and give submissions to a select committee.

It's been done twice before — Te Urewera National Park was the first to receive the status in 2014 and then the Whanganui River in 2017.

"It acknowledges that we have a role to play in their health and wellbeing," Tuuta said.

A new co-governance entitiy, Te Tōpuni Kōkōrangi, will represent the maunga's interests.

"It's 50-50 split with four representatives appointed by the Crown and four representatives appointed by Ngā iwi," Te Atiawa's Liana Poutu said.

"We're not there to advocate for our various perspectives, we're there to advocate as though we were our maunga."

It's partnership many hope the public will embrace.

"They shouldn't be fearful of iwi, they shouldn't be fearful of Māori, and they should think about the positive contribution that iwi and Māori make to make New Zealand a place that we and our mokopuna want to live and thrive," Tuuta said.


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