Treelord deal safe - Cullen

Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen says the "Treelord" deal is safe, despite a suggestion that it had fallen over.

In April, Mr Cullen announced that the Government and Central North Island Maori had reached agreement on the use of forest land in the area to settle their Treaty of Waitangi claim.

The agreement was the latest step towards a final deed of agreement over the $400 million worth of forestry assets.

The Central North Island iwi collective, which has about 110,000 members, proposed the largest-ever Treaty deal - dwarfing the commercial fisheries Sealord deal - which has been dubbed "Treelord".

At the heart of proposed settlement are nine central North Island forests - Kaingaroa, Horohoro, Whakarewarewa, Crater, Waimihia, Marotiri, Pureora, Waituhi and Taurewa.

Today a statement from Maanu Paul said four groups - NMKNM, Ngati Rangitihi, Ngati Whaoa, Ngati Whakaue - had voted themselves out of the deal, which signalled its collapse.

Dr Cullen said that was inaccurate.

"I can't agree with that at all," Dr Cullen said.

"We had one iwi - Rangitihi - (which) voted against the settlement, we have strong support from the other seven iwi... I am confident it won't fall over."

Dr Cullen said there were details to sort out but a signing ceremony was planned for next week. He hoped there would be progress on Rangitihi's situation today.

"The biggest issue we are facing is that a lot more people want to come than we possibly fit in to the banquet hall, the grand hall and legislative council chamber altogether which gives I think an indication of the level of support for the settlement."
Under the proposed deal, Tuwharetoa will be offered the chance to buy the Lake Taupo and Lake Rotoaira forests from the Crown.

It has taken 20 years for the iwi to agree on the plan, with three previous attempts made to hammer out a deal over Kaingaroa forest since 1990.

- NZPA


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