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Wednesday 1 August 2007
Today the Waitangi Tribunal released its second report on the Te Arawa Settlement process.
The Tribunal has found that aspects of the Crown’s processes for dealing with overlapping groups, and aspects of the Te Arawa deed of settlement itself, were inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. It commented that the Crown cannot continue to ‘pick favourites’ and make decisions on tribal interests in isolation, based on inadequate information.
The Tribunal said it could not endorse the Te Arawa settlement in its current form. It has grave concerns regarding the potential negative impact of this settlement on overlapping iwi, and on the durability of future central North Island settlements.
However, it acknowledged that the part of Te Arawa who have negotiated this settlement have done so in good faith, and that the settlement must proceed, albeit in varied form.
The Tribunal recommended, therefore, that the proposed settlement be delayed, pending the outcome of a forum to decide on high level guidelines for the allocation of Crown forest lands.
The aim of the forum would be to reach agreement upon:
The critical thing is that these decisions are made by the central North Island iwi themselves, on their own terms, answerable to each other. These guidelines would then form a framework for iwi negotiations with the Crown.
This approach would benefit the Crown, as it would no longer be in the unenviable position of determining the allocation of settlement assets between these groups, based on its understanding of their customary interests and of the potential size and shape of future settlements.
Equally, it would give Māori an assurance that the allocation of Crown forest assets had been undertaken fairly, transparently, and according to tikanga.
Most importantly, the Tribunal considers that truly durable Treaty settlements will grow out of such a process. The Tribunal is not confident that this will be the case if the current Te Arawa deed of settlement is enacted.
The Tribunal sees Treaty settlements as critical to the future of our country, and considers that any recommendation to delay or stop a proposed settlement should only be made as a last resort.