Pounamu Returns to Ngai Tahu

  • Max Bradford

The return of pounamu to its traditional guardians is an historic and deeply significant occasion for Ngai Tahu and New Zealand, Energy Minister Max Bradford said today.

The Ngai Tahu (Pounamu Vesting) Bill, which had its third reading in Parliament today, was the final step to return to Ngai Tahu all Crown-owned pounamu within their takiwa (tribal area) and in the territorial sea adjacent. The Act will come into force 28 days after it receives the Royal assent.

"Ngai Tahu are the rightful guardians of pounamu, as recognised by the Waitangi Tribunal in 1991, and it is proper that it is returned to them. The Bill restores their right to this taonga and redresses a long standing grievance," Mr Bradford said.

In recognition of the significance of the return of pounamu, the Crown has also gifted to Ngai Tahu three large pieces of pounamu, which were confiscated by Police as evidence of an illegal greenstone mining operation on the Cascade Plateau in South Westland in 1995.

The gift symbolised the return of all pounamu, Mr Bradford said at a vesting ceremony after the Third Reading of the Bill.

"This has been a momentous week in the relationship between the Crown and Ngai Tahu."

Earlier this week, after six and a half years of negotiations, Ngai Tahu and the Crown initialled the Crown