A 160m pound apology to the Maoris for shameful history of injustice

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New Zealand took a momentous step to address the historic grievances of its original Maori inhabitants yesterday, handing back nearly half a million acres of Crown forestry land in a settlement worth NZ$418m (£160m).

Hundreds of Maori, some wearing traditional feather cloaks, descended on the capital, Wellington, to watch the agreement being signed in parliament by the government and tribal leaders. Some wept during the ceremony, while others chanted, sang and blew conch shells.

The settlement is the biggest to emerge from long-running negotiations to restore land, forestry and fishery rights lost by indigenous tribes after the British settlement of New Zealand in the 19th century.

In the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, tribal chiefs ceded sovereignty to the British Crown in exchange for retaining control of their land and natural resources. But much of that land was subsequently confiscated or illegally sold after the arrival of successive waves of white settlers.

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