Treaty settlements: Long and winding road to resolving the past

By Yvonne Tahana

Ngai Tuhoe will today sign their Treaty claim Deed of Settlement with the Crown. So far 62 settlements have been completed.

Lakebeds returned to Te Arawa. Photo / Alan Gibson
Lakebeds returned to Te Arawa. Photo / Alan Gibson

The Crown is over the half-way hump of settling all Treaty of Waitangi claims and could achieve its aim of having all outstanding grievances sorted out by its own 2014 target, the minister in charge of the process says.

Figures released to the Herald show that since 1990, 62 settlements have been completed - at a cost of $1.4 billion - and while 60 remain, the Crown is in talks with tribes in every geographical area left to settle.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson, a former lawyer for Ngai Tahu, is trumpeting the fact that for the 2012/2013 financial year, 12 deeds - deals which have yet to go through legislation - were signed.

Ngai Tuhoe sign today in Parliament and two more, Ngati Tu and Ngati Rangiteaorere, are expected to do so this month.

Mr Finlayson said the resolution of Tamaki Makaurau, wider Auckland grievances and an imminent deal with Whanganui River iwi meant "that some of the most intractable issues are now behind us".

He is a little bit gleeful about that effort given the average of 1.6 a year in the decade up to 2009. He calls that rate under Labour "shameful" and "disgraceful", but concedes that the settlement environment - the wider public's acceptance of the multi-government policy - is more benign now than it ever was.

In explanation, he tells of speaking at a breakfast meeting recently. "I said, 'If you have any questions about Tuhoe, go and read your history. A friend of mine overheard someone say, 'Oh, I better go away and look at that. That sounds pretty good'."

Mr Finlayson compares that to attitudes of 16 years ago. Then, he said, someone in the National Party told Jim Bolger that if he signed the Deed of Settlement with Ngai Tahu, "you'll lose all of the South Island seats".

He is confident that the government can achieve at least agreements in principle with all remaining iwi by the 2014/2015 financial year. But there is a qualifier that points to the challenges for iwi, as reaching that target can only happen with "all willing and able groups".

Challenges are often at the start, when tribes try to establish a mandate. After that, they still have to manage the politics of the negotiations internally. Deals often involve overlapping interests between tribes and sorting through those can be a minefield. Finally, managing the stock of landbank properties also remains difficult.

Still, Mr Finlayson is upbeat about the chances of actually meeting the "target", first set in the lead-up to the 2008 election. He bristles if it is called a deadline and says just and durable settlements are what the process is about.

"The settlement of historical claims is now within sight, rather than being a constantly vanishing point beyond the horizon. People now realise it is a realistic goal that we are well on the way to achieving."

He is cagey about how much future settlements will cost.

A media spokesman for the Treasury, Bryan McDaniel, confirmed work had been done on costings.

"I'm informed that because of the confidentiality of negotiations, the Government does not publish estimated amounts for future settlements as this could prejudice the Crown's future negotiation position.

"However, a forecast for Treaty settlements and associated relativity mechanism payments is included in the Government's overall fiscal forecasts. The forecast for Treaty settlements is grouped with other items to maintain confidentiality."

12 key settlements

1. Waikato-Tainui Raupatu 1995
Set a benchmark of $170 million Also introduced a relativity clause, which outlined that once $1 billion in 1994 dollars was passed in settlements the tribe would be entitled to a 17 per cent payout of the value of remaining deals. Received a $70 million payout last year. Tribe now has assets valued at $700 million.

2. Ngai Tahu 1997
Second settlement tribe. $170 million. Another tribe with a relativity clause. Mt Cook, also known as Aoraki, was returned to the tribe and then re-gifted back to the nation. First iwi to set up a matched savings scheme, Whai Rawa. Has contributed $13.1 million to Ngai Tahu members. Has assets of $747 million.

3. Ngati Tama (Taranaki)
Received $14.5 million in 2001/2002. Poor management and bad investment decisions saw a loss of the total cash value of the settlement. One of the saddest stories of the settlement era.

4. Te Arawa Lakes 2004/2005
Thirteen lakebeds returned to the Te Arawa confederation's ownership. One more in council ownership to be transferred. $2.7 million financial redress, plus $7.3 million which capitalised an annuity. Reserved space on a local government body managing the lakes. Management of customary fisheries.

5. Ngati Mutunga 2005/2006
Important for what was left out of the deal. Mt Taranaki's confiscation is to be dealt with at a later date when all Taranaki iwi are in a position to negotiate. No additional financial or commercial redress in relation to the mountain. Received $14.9 million.

6. Central North Island Treelords 2007/2008
The first multi-iwi settlement which dealt with overlapping interests in the Kaingaroa Forest. Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Whare, Ngati Manawa, Ngati Rangitihi, Raukawa and affiliate Te Arawa iwi and hapu settled. Cumulatively, they have more than 100,000 members. Land value transferred $196 million, accumulated rentals $223 million, annual income stream $15 million.

7. Waikato River co-management settlement
Established a new era of co-management between river iwi and the Crown. Established a "clean up" fund for the river aimed at restoring its health and wellbeing - $210 million over 30 years managed by the Waikato River Authority.

8. Ngati Whatua o Orakei 2011/12
Allegations of preferential Crown treatment in dealing with this Auckland iwi resulted in a lingering deadlock across the region. The settlement below enabled this deal to progress. $18 million plus provision for iwi to buy and lease back naval land to the Crown.

9. Tamaki Makaurau collective settlement 2011/2012. Not a cash settlement
Dealt with overlapping interests of 13 Auckland groups. Crown to vest 14 volcanic cones in the tribes subject to public access. New co-management regime. Rangitoto, Motutapu, Motuihe and Tiritiri Matangi Islands to be vested in iwi before being gifted back to theCrown.

10. Ngai Tuhoe.

11. Te Aupouri, Te Rarawa, Ngai Takoto
Three separate iwi deals. All cover a big chunk of the Far North. Together worth $76 million. Legislation pending.

12. Ngapuhi
Still to come. The largest iwi in the country is yet to settle. Likely to approach $170 million.

Questions and answers

What are historic Treaty settlements?

An agreement between the Crown and a Maori claimant group to settle all of the groups's historical claims against the Crown.

Historical claims relate to actions or omissions by the Crown in relation to the claimant group during the 19th and early 20th centuries up until September 21, 1992 (the date of the Sealord Fisheries Settlement). Claims based on Crown actions after this date are known as contemporary claims and are dealt with through a separate process.

What are their features?

* A historical account: Provides agreed outline of historical events between the Crown and claimant.
* Crown apology.
* Cultural redress: May relate to ownership of Crown land, rights and access to customary food-gathering sources, opportunities for developing future relationships with government departments and local bodies, provide recognition of traditional place-names by facilitating name changes to sites, eg, Aoraki/Mt Cook.
* Financial and commercial redress: Made up of an overall quantum or value in dollar terms. It can be taken in cash or Crown-owned property or some combination of the two. May also receive rights of first refusal to purchase certain Crown-owned property within a specified geographical area. These usually have a specific time period attached.
Source: Office of Treaty Settlements

How do tribes and the Crown settle?

They negotiate directly with each other. Tribes can also elect to go through a Waitangi Tribunal hearing first. The tribunal can issue findings in respect of the claim. Tribes can then choose to negotiate with the Crown. However, the tribunal cannot inquire into a region if settlement legislation has passed.

What do tribes do with settlements?

It's inherent in any settlement that what is received will be used for the benefit of the iwi or hapu. Many tribes set up commercial vehicles separate from governance. Proceeds may be used to pay for education, scholarships, social programmes, savings programmes or any other initiatives.

- NZ Herald

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