4 Jun 2013

Tuhoe and Crown sign Treaty settlement

10:39 pm on 4 June 2013

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson says the Crown and Tuhoe must focus on the future now a Treaty settlement has been signed.

Hundreds of people from the Bay of Plenty/Hawke's Bay iwi travelled to Wellington to witness the signing of the agreement at Parliament on Tuesday. They filled the banquet hall and spilled over to nearby rooms and foyers where they watched the two-hour ceremony on screens.

Tuhoe members prepare to sign Deed of Settlement at Parliament.

Tuhoe members prepare to sign Deed of Settlement at Parliament. Photo: RNZ

The settlement package includes an apology from the Crown for past injustices. There will be financial redress of $170 million and the right to manage Te Urewera National Park in the North Island in partnership with the Crown.

Prime Minister John Key said a momentous deal has been reached for the iwi and the country.

"A lot of people would never have believed we'd get to the situation where that agreement's being signed. It's been a long struggle for them - they've suffered terribly over decades, really. And I think it's an important step as the Government inches closer towards completing all the historical claims."

Chris Finlayson told those gathered that the settlement is not only an account of what happened in the past, but also a way forward.

"Now no one here is starry-eyed. We all know that there have been issues over the years, but equally we know that if both parties work hard on that relationship, really good things are going to happen."

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson, left, and a Tuhoe leader Tamati Kruger.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson, left, and a Tuhoe leader Tamati Kruger. Photo: RNZ

Before the ceremony he told reporters that the Crown would have ongoing obligations to Tuhoe.

"I loathe the expression 'a settlement's done and dusted' - because it's not done and dusted. What we're trying to do in this work going back 20 years is recognise the past - not ignore it - and change the way we go about doing business with one another."

Lead negotiator for Tuhoe Tamati Kruger told reporters some of the settlement money would be spent on basic infrastructure, including water supply, sewerage systems and energy supply to communities around Te Urewera.

Mr Kruger acknowledged these services are usually funded by local and central government. However, he said Tuhoe has been waiting 150 years and would like to chip in and start the process of improving the infrastructure.

Tuhoe elder Tamati Cairns said the tribe is now focusing on building a positive relationship with the Government. He said the settlement helps to fulfil an aspiration held by his people's ancestors - to heal the relationship between the Crown and the iwi.

"It's been a hard one, as Tuhoe has experienced in recent times that would suggest that it would be still pretty difficult to repair. But no, here we are today and the people are looking forward to a new relationship with the Crown and indeed with the people of New Zealand."

The Government expects to pass legislation enacting the settlement by the end of this year.

Hapu's bid fails

Earlier, a hapu lost an 11th hour bid to stop the Tuhoe negotiating team in its tracks. Ngati Haka Patuheuheu is part of the settlement package but does not want to be, saying the sub-tribe's claims are not being represented.

Chairperson Robert Pouwhare asked for an urgent hearing at the Waitangi Tribunal, but was turned down. Mr Pouwhare said the hapu is seeking legal aid to ask the High Court to review the agreement between the iwi and the Crown.

Tuhoe members arriving in Wellington.

Tuhoe members arriving in Wellington. Photo: RNZ