The New Zealand government has signed an historic deal to hand over a large area of forest land to seven Maori tribes.

The settlement transfers 435,000 acres (176,000 hectares) of forest in the central North Island to the Maori. The agreement is the largest single deal between the government and Maori tribes.

Hundreds of Maori witnessed the signing of the agreement in the New Zealand parliament. Maori paramount chief Tumu Te HeuHeu said the objective was to provide tribes with ‘a strong, durable and sustainable economic future’.