7 Feb 2014

Talk of $600m for Ngapuhi dismissed

8:48 pm on 7 February 2014

Treaty Settlements Minister Chris Finlayson has compared a suggestion that Ngapuhi's Treaty deal could be as large as $600 million to pigs flying.

Chris Finlayson.

Chris Finlayson. Photo: RNZ

Prime Minister John Key announced at Waitangi the Government is prepared to offer some form of payment to encourage the country's largest iwi to reach a settlement with the Crown.

When asked about the $600 million figure, Mr Finlayson told Morning Report on Friday he just saw a pig fly by. He said the Crown would be negotiating and he hoped things would progress quickly once there was a mandate.

Iwi leaders have said any long-term settlement needs to be in the range of $600 million.

Earlier, Ngapuhi hapu leader Rudy Taylor said there were major divisions within the iwi about who had the mandate of the people to negotiate with the Crown - and no financial incentive could solve them. He said money wasn't the issue.

Mr Taylor said the iwi was divided into two groups, and everyone needed to get around the table with the Minister of Treaty Settlements to discuss what was being offered and agree a way forward.

Other hapu leaders have also criticised the Government, saying the offer of money showed Mr Finlayson had been wrongly advised on how get talks back on track.

However, Mr Finlayson said it was up to Ngapuhi to negotiate a mandate and move forward.

Offer unethical, Peters says

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the incentive offer was premature and unethical.

It was not realistic to expect a deal to be reached this year, as the the iwi needed to first have a mandate and sort out the area that would be included in the claim.

It would be dangerous to base the settlement on the size of Ngapuhi now, rather than on what it was being compensated for, Mr Peters said.

Ngati Hine spokesman Pita Tipene said no one should be talking money while Ngapuhi was still divided over who would control it.

He said the offer of an incentive was contentious, too, because it was likely the money would go to a runanga body - and the hapu alliance did not trust the runanga, led by Sonny Tau.

"It's really important that the Crown talks to the right people. Really, over the last few years, we've been sidelined in this discussion and we feel very disempowered in the process.

"So the sooner the Crown get more serious about talking te kotahitanga [unity] the better," Mr Tipene said.

Mr Tau was not available for comment. He has in the past said Ngapuhi's settlement was expected to be at least $180 million - a quantum comparable to other major iwi settlements.

Mr Tipene said he understood the Government would accept the Tuhoronuku mandate this week, with certain conditions attached that addressed some of the hapu's concerns.

Process about extinguishment - professor

University of Auckland Maori Studies head Margaret Mutu said the Government's incentive offer was no different to what the government of 1840 would have done.

"I don't see anything different in what the Prime Minister did yesterday to what government officials, government ministers, were doing back in the 1840s," Professor Mutu said.

"This whole Treaty settlement process is not about settlement at all, it's about extinguishment, and I have yet to come across any person who has settled a claim who has considered it to be fair and just."

Professor Mutu said Maori did not care about the financial settlement and would instead prefer sovereignty.