Ngāi Tahu marks 25 years since Settlement


Our iwi has celebrated the anniversary of the Crown Settlement by holding a tribal climate change symposium with whānau. 

In 1998, Ngāi Tahu received an apology from the Crown, cultural and tribal redress, and $170 million compensation. It was the culmination of a quest for justice over seven generations. 

In the 25 years since, Ngāi Tahu has built a solid asset base and invested more than $930 million in tribal development including education grants, environmental initiatives, language revitalisation, marae projects, and many more schemes that advance the wellbeing of the iwi.  

To mark the milestone, we called on members from across the iwi for a climate change symposium to signal the importance of adapting to and mitigating the impacts of global warming.  

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai spoke at the symposium. She emphasised the importance of keeping an eye to the future when celebrating the past. 

“We have just topped 80,000 registered iwi members. We have built a thriving business, which is investing in our people and generating stronger education, health, and cultural outcomes for our whānau. We are allowed to be a bit proud. At the same time, we are in the middle of the challenge of our lifetime – climate change,” Lisa Tumahai said. 
“We are a coastal people. Many of our marae, urupā and wāhi tīpuna are in low-lying coastal areas, exposed to rising sea levels and flooding. In fact, 16 of our 18 marae are at risk.” 

Lisa Tumahai spoke about progress towards the targets set in Te Kounga Paparangi, the Ngāi Tahu climate action plan.  
Progress on adaptation measures, waste management, supplier engagement, and research on agricultural methods had been good, she said, but carbon emissions rose slightly (8 percent) on last year. 
As the impacts of Covid receded, tourism and corporate travel increased as borders opened, international demand for our seafood grew, and farming emissions contributed as well, Lisa Tumahai explained. 

“We are focused on reducing our carbon emissions and we are now refining how we measure them. We aim to not only mitigate our environmental impact but also inspire positive change. Tackling climate change is our generation’s most significant challenge, and our ambition to become carbon neutral remains.” 

She pointed to Ngāi Tahu Farming’s regenerative agriculture trial – Te Whenua Hou Te Whenua Whitiora – which is the country’s largest whole-farm regenerative trial. 

Over seven years, the $11.5 million study in partnership with Ngāi Tūāhuriri and the government will seek to validate the science of regenerative farming by comparing financial, social, and environmental differences between adjacent regenerative and conventional farms.  

The electrification of Ngāi Tahu Tourism’s Shotover Jet fleet is ongoing with the prototype phase now complete.  

“We are now working on finalising design and infrastructure options. Each electric jet boat conversion is estimated to save 120 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. That is what 25 cars emit annually,” Lisa Tumahai said. 

A group of rangatahi spent the previous day discussing climate change. They then spoke at the Settlement Day Commemoration, outlining their vision for the next 25 years. 

Our rangatahi are our tribe’s first post-settlement generation. Their vision for Ngāi Tahu is both inspiring and reassuring. 

The symposium involved expert speakers and panel discussions.  

Kay Harrison, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Climate Change Ambassador, recalled her time as a negotiator in the Office of Treaty Settlement in the early 2000s. 

She spoke about policy development, including the establishment of the New Zealand emissions trading scheme and the development of our first Paris agreement target. 

Christchurch City Councillor Sara Templeton, who holds the climate change portfolio, spoke about climate change adaption in the context of coastal hazards. 

The panel discussions were lively and informative. The first one featured Papatipu Rūnanga representatives Rachel Robilliard from Taumutu, Debbie Tikao from Ōnuku, and Deborah Paterson from Waihōpai. Each spoke with passion about the challenges their communities face. The second panel featured Matapura Ellison, David Perenara-O’Connell, Fiona Pimm, Justin Tipa, and Terry Nicholas. 

Here’s to another 25 years.