Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson was in Gisborne today meeting with Te Aitanga a Mahaki groups, to work with them towards negotiating a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.
"He is very keen to restart negotiations towards a just and durable settlement of the iwi's historical grievances, so that its members can see the benefits of a settlement as soon as possible," Mr Finlayson's spokesman said this morning.
The iwi's lead negotiator Willie Te Aho urges the Gisborne iwi to unify and strongly back attempts to reach a $120 million Treaty settlement this year.
The Waitangi Tribunal in 2004 said Turanga/Gisborne grievances were "significantly worse" than those of Taranaki and Waikato - including the illegal execution of 122 people by Crown forces at Ngatapa, in the iwi's tribal area.
Te Aitanga a Mahaki is the only iwi in the district still to settle its claims.
Mr Te Aho today calls on its people to overcome differences and complete the claims process begun 22 years ago, while remaining elders "are still here and an apology from the Crown to them means something".
He outlines why the current Government has an obligation to reach this settlement, and points out that its time could be running out with an election later this year.
"From a negotiations perspective, it will be a strong mandate that will drive our discussions with the Government," says Mr Te Aho.
"The proposed Mahaki Settlements Committee will have all our existing marae and all our claimants leading this discussion with the Crown. And the buck will stop with Te Aitanga a Mahaki Trust."
An agreement was reached last Thursday night for the trust to lead negotiations with the Crown, which could see the iwi receive part of Mangatu forest plus compensation of up to $120 million.
Mr Finlayson's spokesman said they could not comment on dollar figures as that was a matter for negotiation.
On Sunday more than 130 people gathered at Takipu Marae to discuss the negotiations.
"Despite the differing perspectives, it's fair to say that our people are hoha (annoyed). They are sick of the lack of unified leadership and the infighting," says Mr Te Aho.
He also calls on the Gisborne community - which was the major benefactor of the confiscation of 55,000 acres of land, and will also benefit from investment of compensation worth only 3 per cent of what was taken - "to support the long overdue completion of the Te Aitanga a Mahaki settlement".
Mr Te Aho says the National-led Government "needs to tidy up its backyard and not pass this settlement on to anyone else".
It not only said it wanted all historical claims settled by 2014, Mr Te Aho says it failed to deal with Mahaki proposals put to it in 2010; and it paused the Te Aitanga a Mahaki settlement in May 2011 when the iwi wanted to settle at the same time as Rongowhakaata.
- The Gisborne Herald