Mt Taranaki will be granted special legal status similar to Te Urewera and the Whanganui River

By Derek Cheng

Special legal status will be given to Mount Taranaki, following Te Urewera and the Whanganui River in becoming a legal personality. Photo / Mike Scott
Special legal status will be given to Mount Taranaki, following Te Urewera and the Whanganui River in becoming a legal personality. Photo / Mike Scott

Mt Taranaki will be granted the special status of a legal personality, meaning the mountain will effectively own itself and have the same protections as a citizen.

The Crown and eight Taranaki iwi signed a Record of Understanding yesterday over Egmont National Park (Taranaki Maunga), which will see it become the joint responsibility of local Māori and the Government.

All Crown-owned land within the National Park will be vested in a legal personality,
meaning the land will own itself - a special legal status that has previously been granted to Te Urewera and the Whanganui River.

The concept was considered groundbreaking and was used to neutralise the controversial issue of ownership. Instead of human ownership over the environment, it embraces the Maori relationship with the land and recognises its cultural and spiritual significance.

"As a New Plymouth local I grew up under the gaze of the maunga so I'm particularly pleased with the respect accorded to local tangata whenua and the legal protection and personality given to the mountain," Treaty Settlements Minister Andrew Little said.

It follows a Waitangi Tribunal report from 1996 that said there was no valid basis for Mt Taranaki's confiscation from Māori.

Under the Record of Understanding, the Mount Egmont Vesting Act will be repealed and a new joint Crown-Iwi governance entity will be created that will look after the interests of the maunga.

The record notes that the maunga, including the mountain, are an ever-present and personified ancestor that "transcend our perception of time, location, culture and spirit".

"Their presence pervades our scenery, projecting mystery, adventure and beauty, capturing our attention and our imagination in how humanity can be closely bound to a landscape."

The record is a stepping stone to a final Collective Redress Deed, which will include a historical account, Crown acknowledgements of Treaty breaches, and a Crown apology. No financial redress will be included.

The eight iwi involved in the negotiations are: Ngāruahine, Taranaki Iwi, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi, Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Maru.

Yesterday the Crown also signed an Agreement in Principle with Ngāti Maru, which will pave the way for their Deed of Settlement and bring settlements for the Taranaki region to a final conclusion.

The agreement with Ngāti Maru includes financial redress of $30 million and outlines the shape of a future settlement, which will be negotiated in the coming months.

It covers an area eastward from Mt Taranaki to the upper Whanganui River.

"Today's agreements are a major milestone in acknowledging the grievances and hurt from the past as the Taranaki iwi experienced some of the worst examples of Crown behaviour in the 19th Century," Little said.

"In 1865 the Crown's confiscation of land in Taranaki took half of Ngāti Maru's traditional rohe from them. This action was compounded by further land loss through the Crown's actions and omissions and led to Ngāti Maru becoming almost completely landless."

- NZ Herald

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