Government pushes on with Treaty deal over forest

The Government is going ahead with Te Arawa's multimillion-dollar Treaty settlement though the Waitangi Tribunal will not sign off on the deal.

The settlement has been plagued with litigation from opposing hapu and a Waitangi Tribunal report recommended the process be delayed so a meeting of the hapu could be held.

The Government says it plans to follow through with the current deal despite the report, although a lawyer for Maori groups opposing the settlement says it is unlikely to make it through Parliament.

In 2006 the Nga Kaihautu o Te Arawa executive council and the Government negotiated a 51,000ha Crown forestry land deal, with financial redress understood to be worth more than $36 million. The group, now known as Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa, represents about 24,000 Te Arawa members.

Early this year the Federation of Maori Authorities and the Maori Council, later joined by Ngati Tuwharetoa, filed an application in the High Court to try to force the groups back to the negotiating table. They claimed overlapping groups were being left with crumbs while the larger group would receive the best forestry blocks. The application was dismissed.

The Waitangi Tribunal released a final report stating it had "grave concerns" about the interests of overlapping hapu and the durability of future Central North Island settlements. It recommended settlement be delayed and a forum be held to sort out the allocation of Crown forestry lands.

However, Minister of Treaty Negotiations Mark Burton said the Government would be moving ahead with the settlement and it was up to interest groups to organise their own hui.

Te Arawa lawyer Donna Hall said she doubted politicians would pass the settlement bill when it was introduced to Parliament.

Mr Burton said there had been a number of attempts in 2003 and 2004 to develop a collective settlement for the groups but some hapu had decided to negotiate their own historic grievances.

The settlement process had passed rigorous scrutiny in the past, he said.

"The Crown and Te Arawa acted in good faith to achieve a settlement that is fair to both the affiliate of Te Arawa iwi, and hapu. Other groups will negotiate their own settlements at a later date ... While cross-claim issues are not new, we have engaged with the groups involved with attempts on three or four times to ensure the group does have the proper mandating process. These groups have chosen to go down their own pathway."

Enough land and resources had been put aside to settle other groups' claims, Mr Burton added.

Ms Hall said that while the Government may have acted in good faith with the executive council, it had not done so with other hapu groups.

"It will be very interesting because they may have acted in good faith but it has been bad faith for the others. It has to be fair across the board and I don't think it is," she said, adding that in its current form the deal would be unlikely to make it through the parliamentary process.

"I understand they just don't have the numbers it needs to get past the next stage. It will sit there until this parliamentary term is over. National have already said they won't allow this through."

If the settlement is rejected by Parliament the Government will work through solutions with iwi and other interested parties.

The chief settlement negotiator for the Te Arawa executive council, Rawiri Te Whare, was not available for comment.

- Daily Post

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