Te Arawa raises the question: Who owns the land?

Who owns the land in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, from Te Roto-a-Tamaheke to Te Puia and Arikikapakapa?

That was the topic of discussion at an arbitration hearing at Te Pakira Marae at Whakarewarewa, Rotorua this week.

The parties involved are Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, and Ngāti Whakaue iwi, along with Ngāti Whakaue‘s hapū - Hurungaterangi, Taeotu, Te Kahu and Pukeroa Oruawhata.

Kenneth Kennedy of Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao argues it is his iwi’s land. But Hokimate Kahukiwa of Ngāti Whakaue, Hurungaterangi, Taeotu and Te Kahu disagrees, saying, “It’s all the thermal valley, that is ours”.

These two iwi are now submitting evidence for an arbitration that will decide who has a beneficial entitlement to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, from Te Roto-a-Tamaheke to Te Puia and Arikikapakapa.

Three claims

Kennedy says there is a well-known saying that goes, “Ngāti Wāhiao already settled here, and after the [Tarawera} eruption families of Tūhourangi sought refuge on these lands also”.

Kahukiwa believes people only have to look up to Te Puia, the Roto of Tameheke, the big lake right back into Scion. He was explaining landmarks that connect Ngāti Whakaue and the three hapū to the area under scrutiny

“All this area is ours. It has always been ours. We have all known that from when we were children,” Kahukiwa says.

The arbitration panel is chaired by former judge Robert Fisher. The other panellists are Dr Robyn Anderson of the Waitangi Tribunal and Maori academic Dr Robert Joseph. They will listen, deliberate, and come to a conclusion about who has mana over these lands.

“Ngāti Wāhiao has made a claim and we Pukeroa Oruawhata are against it but at the end of the day we are all one and the same and this makes it difficult to find a resolution,” Rawiri Waru of Pukeroa Oruawhata says.

Kahukiwi has been following this claim for over 26 years and is elated today has finally come to resolve who owns these lands.

Third party under question

He also suggests there should only be two parties and not three taking part.

“There is one party that shouldn’t be in here - Pukeroa Oruawhata: They talk about the original owners in this thing but a lot of those original owners are not in this whenua,” Kahukiwa says.

The Ngāti Wahiao submission says its hapū has one pā and has occupied the lands for at least 17 generations. Although the area provided free hot water to cook and bathe, the geothermal terrain made growing crops impossible so its people ventured to other lands for these purposes, such as māra kai at Parekarangi.

Both Ngāti Whakaue and Pukeroa Oruawhata are challenging claims and will give evidence over the following weeks.

The arbitration will end this Friday at Te Pakira for Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, then next week Ngāti Whakaue and hapū Hurungaterangi, Taeotu, Te Kahu will give evidence over 10 days at Hurunga o Te Rangi Marae.

Pukeroa Oruawhata has still to decide when its people will give evidence.