Tribal claim knocked back

By Mike Barrington

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The Waitangi Tribunal has knocked back a Ngati Kahu claim for the return of tribal land and assets worth $260 million, saying it would far exceed Treaty settlements for other tribes.

Instead, the Far North hapu will likely receive $42.5 million and the return of properties "of significant" value.

Ngati Kahu had asked the tribunal to use its binding powers to settle its Treaty of Waitangi claim, which would have required the return to iwi of former Crown properties now in private ownership.

The tribunal declined to use binding powers, saying they would upset the fine balance of existing agreements and Treaty settlements with other Far North tribes.

Instead, in a 242-page report released yesterday, the tribunal recommended a non-binding Treaty settlement package for Ngati Kahu, including various forms of cultural redress, a commercial quantum based on a total figure of $42.518 million and the return of properties of significant value within their rohe.

The tribunal has also recommended the Crown re-engage with Ngati Kahu and make an offer based on the range of redress proposed in the report.

Ngati Kahu Runanga chairwoman Margaret Mutu said the tribunal was quite wrong not to make binding recommendations. She attributed this to the tribunal being told by the Government when the Muriwhenua Land Report was released in 1997 that it would be disbanded if it made binding recommendations.

"The tribunal has been excessively timid with our claim, but it has to look to its own survival," Ms Mutu said.

However, through its non-binding recommendations, the tribunal had told the Crown a partial settlement of Ngati Kahu claims could be achieved.

Ms Mutu said if the Crown listened to the tribunal Ngati Kahu could get a final settlement which included a good part of the land and assets it had claimed.

She said the way the tribunal found that redress for the wrongful dispossession of 70 per cent of Ngati Kahu lands by 1865 was long overdue and listed all the lands taken in yesterday's report was very significant.

"We have now got two reports [yesterday's and the 1997 report] listing all the hapu lands," Ms Mutu said.

Ms Mutu said her generation knew they would not see justice with the land claims in their lifetime, and would leave it to the next generation to get the lands back.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson said the Crown would welcome using the recommendations as the basis for further negotiations with Ngati Kahu.

"The Crown acknowledges Ngati Kahu has well-founded Treaty claims and would like to resume negotiations with them as soon as possible," he said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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