In a significant gesture, the Crown agreed to include in its Settlement Offer the return of Aoraki to Ngāi Tahu. Once the Crown has gifted Aoraki to Ngāi Tahu the tribe will gift Aoraki to the nation as an enduring symbol of their commitment to the co-management of areas of high historic, cultural and conservation value.
The first step in the process will be for the Crown to vest the title to Aoraki in Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. This title will confirm the special relationship that Ngāi Tahu has with the mountain and all that it represents, and in particular the pivotal role that the mountain plays in our southern creation stories.
We know that it is Aoraki, along with his brothers, who bought his great waka down from the heavens in order to visit their step-mother, Papatūānuku. When attempting to return to the heavens some time later, Aoraki misquoted his karakia and the canoe fell back into the water and turned over onto its side.As the brothers moved on to the back of the overturned canoe they turned to stone, and they remain there today as the principal mountains in the Southern Alps, with Aoraki being the highest. It is for this reason that Ngāi Tahu knows the South Island as ‘Te Waka o Aoraki’
The second step in this process will be for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu then to gift the title to the mountain to the nation, both to ensure that the mountain remains within the National Park, and also as an enduring symbol of the tribe’s commitment to the co-management of areas of high historic, cultural and conservation value with the Crown. As additional redress, Ngāi Tahu also received a number of mechanisms that provide for greater tribal input into the management of the mountain and its immediate surrounding area. These mechanisms, which are described in greater detail later (see Cultural Redress – Mana Recognition) include a Statutory Acknowledgement, a Deed of Recognition, a Tōpuni, and a role as Statutory Adviser.
The mountain was also renamed Aoraki / Mount Cook. This name change flows on to the village to be known as Aoraki / Mount Cook Village, and to the national park itself which has become known as the Aoraki National Park.
Q: Doesn’t Ngāi Tahu’s gifting back of the mountain to the nation make this redress worthless?
A: Firstly, the proposed redress would restore Ngāi Tahu ownership of Aoraki, recognising the tribe’s mana over, and relationship with, the area. The very act of gifting the mountain to the people of New Zealand confirms that the person making the gift has the mana, or power, to do so. The other elements of the redress relating to Aoraki would ensure that the relationship with the mountain is forever recognised and would also ensure an active and ongoing role for Ngāi Tahu in the management of the area.