Election 2014

30 Sep 2008

National vows to speed up Treaty settlement process

1:01 pm on 30 September 2008

The National Party and the Maori Party are at odds over National's Maori Affairs and Treaty Negotiations policies.

In the policies, released on Sunday, National said it would speed up the settlement process for Treaty of Waitangi claims if it forms a government after the election.

Leader John Key says he would move the Office of Treaty Settlements from the Ministry of Justice to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, appoint special negotiators and resource the Waitangi Tribunal to sit all year round.

Mr Key says that would enable all claims to be settled by 2014.

He says National would then begin a process to abolish the Maori seats in Parliament.

However, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says that's not a decision for National to make.

"The abolition of the Maori seats won't happen, it will never happen until the Maori people say it can happen, because the seats belong to the Maori people, and no government has the right to just take them away.

"If they do, there'll be social disruption and I'll be one of the ones leading it."

National has said it will not repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Dr Sharples doesn't believe discussions with either Labour or National have finished over the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

However, he says the retention of the Act would not be a bar to any future deal the Maori Party could do with either party.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen says moving the Office of Treaty Settlements to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet would delay settlements by six months, and says the Labour-led Government has appointed independent negotiators for some time.