Largest ever Treaty deal 'Treelords' passes into law

The largest ever Treaty of Waitangi deal has been passed into law with both major political parties promising to accelerate the momentum of settlements.

The Central North Island Forests Land Collective Settlement Bill passed today unopposed.

The bill legislates the so-called Treelords deal which involves $195.7m of crown forest land covering 176,000 hectares, plus about $223m in rentals that have accumulated on the land since 1989 and an annual income stream of $13m.

The seven iwi in the collective represent more than 100,000 people.

It's passing was greeted by song by a large group of iwi in Parliament's public gallery.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen today credited Tuwharetoa paramount chief Tumu te Heuheu for bringing the iwi together to cut a deal that had eluded the Crown and Maori for over 20 years.

He said the deal was a key step towards the settling of historic grievances and proved the Government's 2020 deadline for the settling of historic claims was achievable.

National's Maori affairs spokeswoman Georgina te Heuheu said as Treaty negotiations minister, Dr Cullen had helped pick up the pace of settlements and National would continue that if it formed the next government.

"This is a great day, not only for the iwi of the central North Island, but for all New Zealanders."

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said the deal had set out a new path of unity and co-operation among iwi, which Maoridom had embraced.

He said that had in part been achieved by high-level talks involving both chiefs and senior ministers.

The collective is made up of Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Whare, Ngati Manawa, Raukawa and the Affiliate Te Arawa Iwi and Hapu.

Dr Cullen said it was still possible for an eighth iwi, Ngati Rangitihi, to join the settlement if it agreed to do so before Christmas.

The legislation today settles claims relating to the crown forest lands in the central North Island, but not other parts of claims.

However a full settlement of claims was reached today with the affiliate Te Arawa iwi and hapu, with a settlement bill relating to that iwi also passing into law.

Parliament will also today debate the third reading of the Te Roroa Claims Settlement Bill, as well as the first readings of the Port Nicholson Block Claims Settlement Bill and legislation on Waikato-Tainui's Waikato River claim.

- NZPA

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