Hui aims to speed Treaty claims process

By Audrey Young

The Government has called a meeting of all iwi and hapu involved in Treaty of Waitangi negotiations to try to find ways of speeding up the process.

The Government's goal is to complete all settlements by 2014 but that target is looking ambitious given the present rate of settlements.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson, who is meeting Tuhoe in the Ureweras today, will announce the hui to bring together about 70 to 80 groups in Auckland on April 22.

It will be convened by Wira Gardiner, who helped negotiations under former Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen.

The purpose of the hui is to encourage the various groups to identify procedural ways that they or the Crown could help to negotiate more efficiently, but without major changes to the settlements process.

It could involve the Crown offering more assistance to iwi with overlapping claims before the serious negotiations begin.

Dr Cullen last week called on Mr Finlayson to revisit the issue, saying sticking with 2014 was unrealistic and risked upsetting the whole process.

His comments followed a justice and electoral select committee report that concurred with concerns by the Ministry of Justice that the Office of Treaty Settlements did not have the capacity to sustain predicted increases in workload.

Between 2003-04 and 2007-08 the volume of settlement work for the Office of Treaty Settlements increased by 39 per cent.

But Mr Finlayson is relaxed about the Government not meeting the 2014 goal.

"If it happens that a settlement remains unresolved in 2014 and will spill into 2015 or 2016 then that's the way the cookie crumbles," he said.

The Government would not try to force settlements unnaturally by trying to impose "top-down" settlements.

It was more important that claims were durable and settled properly.

"The last thing we would want is to relitigate these issues in another 20 or 30 years."

- NZ Herald

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