Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson says he gets letters from the "KKK" element of society about Treaty of Waitangi settlements - some ask him why he doesn't just die - but by and large the agreements are understood by New Zealanders.

He made the reference to the Ku Klux Klan while explaining the Treaty settlement process to an international conference at Parliament of arbitration and mediation specialists.

" I think it is reasonably well understood in this country what Treaty settlements are about," he said.

"And yes, I always get a few letters from the KKK element in our society.


"They range from mildly abusive to 'why don't you die?' but that's par for the course."

Mr Finlayson said the aim was for every willing and able claimant group to be well on its way to settlement by the end of next year, at least to have an agreement in principle.

Speaking about his own National Party colleagues, he said he had braced himself for a "firestorm" the day he was preparing to brief them in caucus on the Tuhoe settlement.

"I was very, very pleasantly surprised at the way that settlement was received because there was a general understanding that [Tuhoe] had been dealt with very badly in the course of the country's history.

"That settlement took root much better than I thought it would."

Mr Finlayson said he had set up a post-settlement commitments unit because too often the Crown had not kept track of its commitments, or not met them.

He paid tribute to some of the Crown negotiators, including former Labour Cabinet ministers Fran Wilde, Paul Swain and Rick Barker, and said they were part of a good bipartisan effort.

"Very good people and very good negotiators. You can see it with Rick Barker, who was a former union official and he must have been a damned good one because he sits there, takes all the punches and doesn't give an inch."


Mr Finlayson also paid tribute to the officials at the Office of Treaty Settlements, whom he described as "the Jesuits of the civil service".

"They are very clever, not without some considerable guile but above all, [have] a real dedication to the task.

"They don't work for me; I work with them and I'm very proud of what they do."
Mr Finlayson explained that the process has five steps: mandating; terms of negotiation, agreement in principle, deeds of settlement and legislation enacted.

Since August 2010, there had been 30 mandates of iwi recognised; 30 terms of negotiation agreed; 36 agreements in principle; 46 deeds of settlement signed and 34 pieces of settlement legislation enacted.