Crown suspends negotiations with Tainui Taranaki

  • Christopher Finlayson
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations

The Crown has suspended negotiations with Tainui Taranaki ki te Tonga because of legal proceedings brought by the Wakatu Incorporation, which is a party to the negotiations.  Wakatu Incorporation is seeking remedies through the courts that would duplicate the redress being negotiated by Tainui Taranaki.

Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson gave Tainui Taranaki negotiators notice of the suspension of negotiations today, in accordance with the terms of Negotiation agreed between the parties in 2007. The terms acknowledge that negotiations may be discontinued if one party begins litigation over the issues covered by negotiations.

"I am extremely disappointed to be forced to take this step," Mr Finlayson said, "both for the Crown and for other members of Tainui Taranaki. Our respective negotiators have made significant progress in their negotiations in a complex environment, but the proceedings by Wakatu Incorporation could see the Crown pay the same people twice for the same claims. This scenario is unacceptable to the government."

Redress packages totalling over $95 million have been negotiated to address historical grievances of Tainui Taranaki (including those related to the Nelson Tenths land) and all descendants of the original Wakatu shareholders will be entitled to benefit from this redress through affiliation with the iwi of Tainui Taranaki. 

"Unfortunately, the current stance by Wakatu Incorporation undermines the Tainui Taranaki negotiations and the Crown's general policy of negotiating with iwi groups.  Tainui Taranaki needs to resolve its internal differences that have generated this issue."

The Minister noted that in the meantime the Crown must now prepare to defend the proceedings brought by Wakatu Incorporation.

Further information

The High Court proceedings brought by Wakatu Incorporation focus on Crown actions with respect to the Nelson Tenths land originally proposed to be set aside from New Zealand Company purchases in the 19th Century. 

Wakatu Incorporation is a private company that was created in 1977 to administer the remaining Nelson ‘Tenths' land on behalf of its beneficial owners. The shareholders of Wakatu descend from one of the four Tainui Taranaki iwi. 

These actions are also the subject of WAI 56, a historical Treaty of Waitangi claim under negotiation with Tainui Taranaki, who represent four iwi in the northern South Island (Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama, Ngati Rarua, and Ngati Koata).

The Crown has a policy of negotiating with large natural groups of iwi on the basis of their shared history and associations.  The Crown does not negotiate with individual claimants to the Waitangi Tribunal, of which there are over 3000.   

The 2007 Terms of Negotiation with Tainui Taranaki (signed by representatives of all the constituent groups including Wakatu Incorporation) specifically include Wai 56 as one of the historical claims to be settled with the four iwi of Tainui Taranaki.  Wakatu is included in Tainui Taranaki as the ‘kaitiaki' (guardian) of the Wai 56 claim.    

The Waitangi Tribunal considered Wakatu Incorporation's claims about the treatment of Wai 56 in February this year. The Tribunal endorsed the Crown's intention to settle redress upon iwi groups instead of Incorporations affiliated to those iwi.