Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Hon Margaret WilsonTreaty of Waitangi Negotiations
- Tena koutou.
- Welcome to Parliament, particularly those of you who have travelled a long way.
Acknowledge the tribes and their ancestors
- I acknowledge that before me I have representatives of two great waka - Te Arawa and Mataatua. These include the iwi of Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa, Tuhoe, Ngati Whare and Ngati Manawa.
- I also acknowledge those who stand behind you, both the hapu and whanau back home in the rohe and your ancestors who have carried the grievances of the past and who will no doubt watch over today's proceedings.
- I acknowledge the great effort that you have all put into ensuring that the group that is here today is a representative and inclusive one. This bodes well for our future discussions.
- The Treaty claims of iwi and hapu of the central North Island include claims about the loss of land through various processes as a result of the Crown's actions. These claims often relate to the operation and impact of the Native Land Court.
- In the 1980s, the Crown wished to sell forests on land that had been alienated from Maori. Maori raised issues about the proposed sale, and the Crown agreed to hold the land under the forests, and agreed that a trust would hold the rentals from the forests.
- The Crown Forest Assets Act was passed and the CFRT was established to hold the rentals.
- Most of the licensed Crown forest land is in the central North Island.
- The Crown is committed to settling claims in the central North Island, including claims involving forest land. Because of the agreement between the Crown and Maori in the late 1980s, the forest land is still available for use in settlements, and there are accumulated rentals associated with that land.
- In recent months, I have met with Paramount Chief Tumu Te Heuheu and others and talked about beginning a process of dialogue.
Purpose of the hui
- The purpose of today's hui is to begin a process of dialogue between the Crown and Central North Island claimants to explore ways to progress your claims.
- In particular, I am aware that the grievances of your iwi and hapu are long standing and so wish to explore ways in which the settlement process can possibly be speeded up, because justice delayed is justice denied.
- As the Governor General said after the Election in the Speech from the Throne, progressing claims to Crown forest land is a priority of this Government. It is especially important given the ongoing accumulation of the rentals at the Crown Forest Trust.
- However the process cannot be sped up at all cost. It is very important to the Crown, as I am sure it is to the claimants, that undue haste does not put at risk the eventual outcome. Any settlement reached needs to be durable.
The need for dialogue
- I am aware that some of you have presented proposals in the past on how the claims in the Central North Island could be better progressed.
- The Crown for its part has made good progress throughout the country in the settlement of Treaty claims, including with some of your neighbouring iwi.
- Now is the time for us to enter into a constructive dialogue and to identify what common ground there is between us on how to progress the Central North Island claims.
- This is not yet a negotiation, but rather a without prejudice discussion about the types of issues that would need to be clarified or resolved in order for negotiations to take place in the future.
- It is also very important that this dialogue is an inclusive one, open to any other groups with claims in the area who wish to participate or observe.
Issues to consider
- I have an open mind about how this process will evolve. I am sure that there are issues that you, the claimants, wish to bring to the table to be discussed or matters that you would like the Crown to clarify. I have no doubt that the dialogue will be a wide ranging and evolving one that we shape together.
- On the Crown's side there are four issues in particular that we are interested in receiving the views of Central North Island claimants on. These are as follows:
- Which claimant groups?
- As I have said, the dialogue should be an inclusive and evolving one. However, if the dialogue leads to settlement negotiations, there will need to be broad agreement on which iwi are included and how they will be organised for negotiations.
- It is particularly important that there is certainty about not only which Waitangi Tribunal claimants are included, but also which iwi and hapu. They, after all, are the collective groups that carry the grievances.
- The wide representation at today's hui would suggest that progress is being made on this important issue already.
- Which claims?
- There also needs to be certainty about which claims will be the subject of any negotiations.
- I am aware that some Central North Island claimants wish to progress their claims to forest land in advance of their wider claims against the Crown.
- The Crown, on the other hand, has a strong preference for addressing all the historical claims of a claimant group at the same time.
- The Crown considers that there are good reasons for this policy of 'comprehensiveness', in terms of efficiency, reducing cross-claims and increasing the scope and nature of the redress that can be negotiated.
- I am interested in your views on this important issue. Clearly, we will need to find common ground on this matter before any negotiations can begin.
- Representation of Claimants
- If this dialogue results in negotiations, it will be for the claimant communities themselves - iwi and hapu - to determine how they will be represented and who will represent them.
- This is a matter that the Crown also has an interest in, as claimant representation is an issue that is often subject to challenges in the Courts, the Waitangi Tribunal or the Maori Affairs Select Committee.
- It has been my experience that the more time the parties spend addressing issues of representation at the outset, through sound, inclusive processes, the less likely there will be successful challenges later.
- Relationship to the Waitangi Tribunal
- There would need to be discussion as to what the role of the Waitangi Tribunal would be if this dialogue does lead to negotiations.
- I am aware that the Tribunal Reports for the Rotorua, Taupo and Kaingaroa Inquiry Districts are not expected until 2007.
- Despite the potential time delay, I am aware that some iwi in the central North Island may want Tribunal hearings before negotiating with the Crown.
- If that is the case, one issue we would need to consider is when would claimants want negotiations to start, ie. now, after casebooks are completed or after Tribunal hearings.
- The Crown and the Waitangi Tribunal are currently exploring ways to speed up hearing processes generally. The Crown dialogue with Central North Island claimants could feed into this process. I am particularly interested in any ideas for greater integration between Tribunal hearings and negotiations.
- These are all important issues, which it will take time to work through. The Honourable David Caygill has been engaged to facilitate this dialogue on behalf of the Crown.
- As you are probably aware, David comes to the discussions with great knowledge and experience of government and legal processes. He will work along side my officials from the Office of Treaty Settlements and other government departments.
- I expect that there may be another meeting, facilitated by David, before Christmas, with the dialogue proper getting underway in the New Year.
- By March I hope to be in a position to report back to Cabinet with a strategy for moving forward, if that is what the claimants want and we can agree how to do it.
- The strategy would focus on the central North Island, and will not affect claims involving other forest land elsewhere.
- We have much work ahead of us, and I am sure there will be many difficult issues to face. However, there seems to be a strong commitment on both sides to begin talking.
- Only by talking will we be able to lay a foundation for moving forward.