NZ Defence Force and local Iwi commit to a new relationship
On 9th November the NZ Defence Force vested back to local Māori of Ngāti Rangi land that had been used as a Communication Centre.
In a week, on 16th November, the Iwi will gift back to the Crown and Defence Force that land. It will continue to be used by Defence for the good of all New Zealanders.
This apparently strange exchange of land has a deeper significance. It marks a unique new relationship of the New Zealand Defence Force and a local Māori group. This is the first time such a ‘gifting’ or ‘vesting’ has taken place involving the Defence Force.
The background historically arose where the Crown gradually subsumed land belonging to Ngāti Rangi. This possession brought serious consequence for Māori who were not able to work the land and care for their people, and eventually left the area to seek work elsewhere. This included a block of land New Zealand Forces took over as a Communication Base under the banner of the New Zealand Navy.
It was involved for example in communications around the Japanese advances in the Second World War. Although in the middle of the North Island near Waiouru, the base was regarded as a ship of the Navy, HMNZS Irirangi!
There was a good relationship locally between the Defence Force and Māori, celebrated for example in rugby games played on the site and dances at the local base. Originally, Ngāti Rangi providing a name for the base. They gave it the name ‘Irirangi’, meaning broadcasting or communicating a message.
This name, Irirangi, means the communication of sacred knowledge. In particular the good news of Love and mutual co-operation.
The name came forth from what is known as a Rā. Rā, meaning ‘Day’, is a meeting local Māori still celebrate starting at midnight of the 8th of November and going through to midnight of the 9th of November. The 9th of November marks the death of one of the prophets of a Māori movement aimed at preserving and enhancing Māori well-being.
Hence the 9th of November was chosen to conduct the ceremony.
Members of the three branches of the Defence Force gathered at Raketapauma marae and were welcomed on. Then a Mass was held to deepen the spiritual significance of the day.
All persons, from Defence and the local Iwi, then went to Irirangi and a ceremony acknowledging the significance of the day took place.
A plaque on a rock base was unveiled. The wording reads “This plaque marks the relationship between Ngāti Rangi and the NZ Defence Force. It records the vest and gift-back of these lands within Rukutia te Mana, the Ngāti Rangi (Treaty) settlement.”
Kemp Dryden, Chair of the local Marae, spoke, outlining the background to the day. He thanked those who have been negotiating since 2015.
He noted that this relationship will expand into commercial opportunities as well. This will include working together to use land for housing and employment. This first in Treaty agreements will mark a new era for Ngāti Rangi and the NZ Defence Force.
Rear-Admiral David Proctor said this relationship will be something to be recognized in the teaching of our national history in schools. He also expressed the hope that this would link youth on both sides in a new dignified unity.
Mr John Wood, Crown negotiator, representing Honourable Andrew Little, Minister of Treaty Settlements, apologized on behalf of the Crown for the way land had originally been acquired. He expressed the conviction that today marked a new partnership going forward together.
The day could be likened to a stepping stone. It marks a new beginning of working together in growing understanding between the Defence Force and Ngāti Rangi.