9 Jun 2013

Treaty settlements at half-way mark

2:16 pm on 9 June 2013

The historic Tuhoe Treaty ceremony last week pushed the number of Crown agreements with iwi to about the halfway point.

There are roughly 60 completed, with a further 60 to go.

Earlier this year, members of Ngati Rarua at the top of the South Island signed their $12 million settlement with the Crown.

Fearing a conquest from neighbouring tribes in King Country, descendants of Ngati Rarua travelled south where they lost land to the Crown and private companies.

Ngati Rarua chairman Amaroa Luke says the agreement has given the tribe the confidence to reassert itself.

"With the settlement we get now, if we are very wise and astute we could build a foundation for our future generations".

Tuhoe signs

On Tuesday, Tuhoe signed its Deed of Settlement at Parliament. This agreement was seen by the Crown as one of the toughest nuts to crack, and the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, admits he was nervous about the negotiations.

A former New Zealand Ambassador to Washington, John Wood, was brought in to lead the Government in these tricky negotiations.

One of the major stumbling blocks to making a deal was the Te Urewera National Park.

Mr Wood recalls the moment when the prospect of an agreement almost slipped through their fingers.

"There was a very real anxiety that there might not be a way through. Without an arrangement for Te Urewera National Park, acceptable to both sides, there would not be a comprehensive settlement with Tuhoe"

The solution they found was that no one will own the park - it will get its own new legal status and the Crown and Tuhoe will nominate people to oversee it.

Negotiation tactics

The Crown calls some of the shots when it comes to deciding with whom to negotiate, and has a firm policy of dealing with what it calls 'large natural' groupings.

But that approach comes at a cost. Some hapu and iwi feel forced into a claimants' corner.

The Tuhoe hapu, Ngati Haka Patuheuheu, is part of the Tuhoe settlement package, but does not want to be.

Robert Pouwhare, chair of the sub-tribe, says the agreement does not account for how his ancestors suffered.

Further down the North Island, Rangitane people in Palmerston North say their voice has been silenced.

They say the Crown is choosing to deal with a local Maori organisation - Tanenuiarangi Manawatu Incorporated.

Bridgette Te Awe Awe-Bevan, of Rangitane ki Manawatu, says it is not right that other people are telling her tribe's story.

Another Rangitane member, Doctor Ra Durie, says whakapapa is being ignored, and he criticises the Crown's approach.

"It's a flawed process. It should have been the responsibility of the Government agent to determine who actually had the legitimate right to be making the claim. There's an easy way to sort it out. You simply go to the respected elders [of neighbouring tribes] who can tell you straight away who are the traditional families of Rangitane. They know".

But the Government makes no apology for dealing with groups of claimants, as minister Chris Finlayson explains. "There are always people who say 'it's not enough, why are we settling, this mandated doesn't represent us'. These matters are treated individually as they arise. But I'm not surprised at the fact that some people do dissent"

Settlement success

As well as repairing grievous relationships, settlements create a new alliance between government departments and iwi.

New power-sharing arrangements have been set up, such as the Waikato River Authority, with tribes and the Crown managing the waterway on a 50/50 basis.

And in the eastern Bay of Plenty, Ngati Manawa is now making decisions about the Rangitaiki River.

Under Ngati Manawa's Deed of Settlement, the district council is legally obliged to work with the iwi to keep the river clean and healthy.

The reason why the iwi wants to be part of the Rangitaiki River forum is kaitiakitanga (guardianship).

Maramana Vercoe says because Ngati Manawa now works so closely with the council, members can try to get to the bottom of why they struggle to catch tuna or eels, both culturally significant kai.

Going it alone

When iwi couldn't get Government help to build a broadband network from Auckland to the Far North, they turned to a subsidiary of China Telecom to form a partnership.

Part of that iwi is Te Rarawa, which says the high-speed cable link is a symbol of moving ahead and away from reliance on the Crown.

Chair of the tribe's runanga Haami Piripi says his people want to stand on their own two feet.

Rapid progress

Over the past few years the pace of Treaty settlements has been rapid.

The National-led Government has pushed through more than 30 packages in four years. Labour's record was 15 over nine years.

The Government's policy is to settle all historical claims of alleged Treaty breaches by end of next year and despite another 60 to be made the deadline is still in place.

According to the small print of that policy, the goal is for all iwi who are ready to settle to be in a position to sign conditional agreements by the end of 2014.

Next challenges

If the Tuhoe talks caused anxiety for the Crown, then the big iwi Ngapuhi is the current headache - as tribal arguments persist over who should represent claimants in negotiations.

But another large tribe is showing signs of reaching settlement soon. Whanganui iwi are pleased with a plan to create a new legal entity to govern Whanganui River in the same type of legislation used for Tuhoe and Te Urewera National Park.

The new entity will be a free-thinking compromise that also separates tribes from what many regard as a western notion of property ownership and allows their people to fulfil their role as kaitiaki or guardians.

Crown's job

Once all historical claims have been dealt with, the next big job for the Office of Treaty Settlements is to tackle bids for customary marine title - when iwi and claimants assert their kaitiakitanga or guardianship rights.

And the work of the Waitangi Tribunal will shift to contemporary claims, such as the airwaves or radio spectrum.

Chief Crown Negotiator for the Auckland region Mike Dreaver thinks the Tribunal's role might be reviewed.

"I think there will need to be a review of what is the role of the Tribunal. Do we need an institution like the Tribunal, some sort of Treaty ombudsman, or do we create a different way for the Crown to talk to iwi?"

Scrutiny

Halfway through the Treaty settlements, the focus is still on current negotiations - what the Crown wants to give, and what tribes are able to get.

But attention has already turned to what iwi are doing with their settlement money, what investments they're making, and whether the people are benefiting.

As one observer put it, spending is always scrutinised, but Maori spending is under the equivalent of the space Hubble telescope.