Wairarapa iwi Rangitane say the signing of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement has closed the door on historical grievances and allowed them to move forward with purpose.
The Crown signed a deed of settlement with Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua at Makirikiri Marae in Dannevirke on Saturday.
The ceremony was attended by more than 300 people, including Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson, members of parliament, iwi members and crown officials.
Mr Finlayson delivered the official crown apology to the iwi, which was accepted through a poignant korero from Rangitane iwi leader, Manahi Paewai.
Rangitane's area of interest extends from north of Dannevirke to Makaramu, down to Cape Palliser and encompasses the wider Wairarapa and Tamaki nui-a-Rua regions.
Rangitane was left virtually landless by the early 20th century, and the iwi struggled to maintain its distinct identity, customary knowledge and language.
"The Crown can never fully compensate Rangitane for the injustices of the past but this settlement provides the iwi with a solid foundation for its economic and cultural future," Mr Finlayson said.
Mr Paewai said being formally acknowledged by the Crown as the tangata whenua of the region is hugely significant for the iwi.
"It empowers our iwi and enhances our mana. For us, that is one of the greatest successes of all."
The settlement includes financial redress of $32.5 million and will return a number of key cultural sites to the iwi, along with the opportunity to purchase commercial properties including part of Ngaumu Forest.