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Pūkaha Forest To Be Gifted To The Nation

 Rangitāne and Pūkaha are pleased to invite supporters and the wider community to join them to commemorate the historic gifting of the 942ha Pūkaha Forest to the people of Aotearoa at an official ceremony at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre on Saturday, 1 May 2021.

The Pūkaha Forest is the ngāhere taonga (forest treasure) of the Rangitāne iwi. The return of this whenua was an important component of the joint Rangitāne o Tamaki Nui a Rua and Rangitāne o Wairarapa treaty settlement which was finalised in 2017 after lengthy negotiations. What many may not know is that Rangitāne made a significant gesture in that treaty settlement, to gift the reserve to the people of Aotearoa after it was returned to them by the Crown. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described the decision as an “incredibly generous” act.

The gifting ceremony to take place on 1st May follows a moving and emotional ceremony held in February 2020 when the Governor-General, Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy returned Pūkaha to Rangitāne on behalf of the Crown. Since this formal hand back of the reserve Rangitāne have held a number of well attended wānanga on site focusing on reconnecting the people to the land and its inhabitants, lifting awareness and knowledge of this special taonga within the iwi.

Despite interruptions caused by Covid restrictions, the wānanga and all of the work that Rangitāne representatives have done with Pūkaha management and board since the return of land have further enhanced the iwi’s presence on site, increased important cultural practices in all operations and increased iwi involvement in future planning for the reserve.

Current developments at Pūkaha include the build of a $4.5m Environmental Education and overnight stay facility, a whare whakairo with three full time Rangitāne carvers working onsite, a wharenui, a nocturnal boardwalk and significant new education programmes such as the UCOL Certificate in Conservation which started in February.

Rangitāne Tū Mai Rā Trust former chair Jason Kerehi said “Pūkaha has been a taonga to Rangitāne throughout our history and is a cornerstone of our identity.”

The iwi has been actively involved in conservation work at Pūkaha for the past 40 years and holds a position on the Pūkaha Mount Bruce board along with Te Papa Atawhai, The Department of Conservation, as partners in this important conservation project.

The gifting of the Pūkaha Forest to the nation is reflective of the ongoing co-operation and collaboration of the partners to work jointly together guided by Tiriti o Waitangi principles. Rangitāne will continue to have an ever-increasing presence and participation onsite, reflecting the status of the iwi as mana whenua (customary landowners) and the important conservation and forest restoration work will continue for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

The gifting ceremony is to take place at 10am on Saturday 1st of May at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre. This date is auspicious for Rangitāne, as it is the day 10 years ago when Manukura a rare white kiwi hatched at Pūkaha.


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