Crown admits Treaty breaches

By Mike Barrington of the Northern Advocate -
The Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Chris Finlayson. Photo / NZ Herald
The Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Chris Finlayson. Photo / NZ Herald

The Crown has admitted numerous breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi against Te Tai Tokerau Maori ahead of the country's largest Waitangi Tribunal settlement, which could be worth up to $1 billion.

Crown draft concessions for the Waitangi Tribunal's Te Papa o Te Raki inquiry into Northland Treaty settlement claims acknowledge many Treaty breaches around the region.

But the Crown wants to see the tribunal complete its report on the first stage of the inquiry before moving into the second phase of its hearing of hundreds of Treaty grievances filed by Ngapuhi and other northern Maori.

Ngapuhi hapu and claimants feel the same way. During a tribunal judicial conference at Waitangi last week, they emphasised the tribunal's report on its Stage One hearings dealing with He Whakaputanga (the 1835 Declaration of Independence) and the 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi was necessary before starting the Stage Two hearings, hopefully in February next year.

Crown lawyers have also advised the tribunal that Crown facilitator Tukoroirangi Morgan has been talking to Tuhoronuku and Te Kotahitanga leaders in a bid to resolve Te Runanga o Ngapuhi and Te Kotahitanga division over settlement negotiation issues.

"The Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations [Chris Finlayson] is expecting a report from Mr Morgan of these discussions in late July," lawyer Helen Carrad said.

A spokesman for the minister told the Advocate that Mr Morgan was continuing to talk to the two groups and would report to the minister "soon".

A 225-page Crown draft concessions document released by the tribunal last week recognises the Crown breached the Treaty with land purchase policies that have left iwi in Whangarei, Whangaroa, Mahurangi and the Gulf Islands virtually landless.

The Crown concedes it took Maori "surplus lands" and carried out many other Treaty breaches around Northland. Historical evidence is provided to support the Crown submissions.

The Crown says Office of Treaty Settlements officials had been carefully listing Northland land losses but the record was likely to contain inaccuracies. Although the Crown could not certify the information was accurate, the data was considered sufficient grounds for making the concessions.

The draft concessions were produced following a tribunal direction in June last year, saying the Crown was not required to respond to hundreds of amended statements of claim.

"We would rather the Crown respond to both the joint claimant of generic issues and, to the extent it can, to the claimant statement of local issues," the tribunal instruction said.

The tribunal also said: "Counsel reiterate that Te Raki rangatira agreed to and signed only Te Tiriti. Accordingly, the tribunal must consider and apply Te Tiriti as the relevant document." In response to the Tiriti issue, the Crown has repeated its previous submission that it considered "te Tiriti/ the Treaty" as one document that exists in two languages.

And the Crown's draft concessions document says the tribunal's resolution of fundamental issues relating to the two versions of the Treaty need to be settled before the inquiry moves to Stage Two.

"Claimants and the Crown need to know the threshold by which the claims against the Crown are to be assessed," the Crown lawyers say. "This is for every issue and not just the issue concerning rangatiratanga, kawanatanga and autonomy."

The Crown says its position is therefore preliminary to the tribunal's report on the inquiry's Stage One hearing and the hearing of evidence on Stage Two issues.

Tribunal presiding officer Judge Craig Coxhead said in memorandum directions on Thursday that options being considered to speed up the writing of the report could include focusing all the tribunal's limited resources on producing the report.

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