• Jim Bolger
Prime Minister


Kei aku rangatira, tena koutou katoa.

Sir Tipene O'Regan, Charlie Crofts, Bill Solomon, the people of Ngai Tahu, Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

We are gathered here to witness a significant milestone in the relationship between the Crown and Ngai Tahu.

This is the second time we have run the decision making down to the wire.

The first was the signing of the Heads of Agreement in the week before the last election and today's signing just before I step down as Prime Minister.

I am delighted to be here on this historic marae to take part in one of my last duties as Prime Minister in signing today on behalf of the Crown.

Today, with the signing of the Ngai Tahu Deed of Settlement, we take an important step to healing the grievances of the past and moving forward into a new era of development and prosperity.

I know that I speak for everyone when I say that today is a special occasion and one that will undoubtedly be recognised so by our history books.

As I look across the marae and beyond I am reminded of the journey that we as a nation have embarked on since the signing of the Treaty 157 years ago.

Looking back across that quite short history, we can see that Governments have interpreted their responsibilities in very different ways.

Some paid scant regard to the spirit in which the Treaty had been signed.

Others, probably with honourable intentions, sought too literally to 'make us all one people'.

There was much hurt, misunderstanding and many false dawns.

Today really marks the dawn of a new beginning.

I am very proud of my Government's commitment to achieve the fair settlement of Treaty grievances.

Since 1990 the Treaty has been at the centre of our priorities and has become a core part of government business.

It is a demanding and time consuming business that requires a close attention to detail.

We have confronted our Treaty responsibilities in two ways.

The first has been the work to remove the 'thorn' of grievance as a result of previous Crown actions.

This is what today symbolises.

No other Government has approached the settlement of such grievances with greater determination, goodwill and courage.

We have gone where other Governments have feared to go.

As a consequence no other Government has experienced anything like the sense of accomplishment, the emotion and the joy, for example, as the fisheries settlement in 1992, of the Tainui settlement in 1995 or here today.

For much of our history we have talked but not listened to each other.

That happened from time to time as we worked to progress this settlement.

Once we listened carefully we found that fair and sensible solutions are possible.

Today's settlement is because of experience and greater confidence, more innovative and more comprehensive than any previous one.

The main point is that the settlement of Treaty grievances is happening and it will continue.

The legacy I leave here is that no future Government will be able to walk away from the process.

On another front, we have tackled our Treaty responsibilities through our social and economic strategies, most particularly in the areas of education and health.

However, difficult realities still confront many Maori today and pose a challenge for Maori leadership.

I have often said there is little benefit in resolving the historic grievances of a particular iwi, if over 50 per cent of the young people in that iwi remain unqualified educationally, unskilled and long-term unemployed.

These are problems that cannot be underplayed.

Rather they demand initiatives that engage Maori as an integral part of the solution.

It is necessary to achieve greater participation by Maori in all walks of life if we are to fulfil our potential as a nation.

As I reflect on what has been achieved in recent years I feel very positive about the future ahead of us as Treaty partners.

The Crown has moved from ignorance about the depth of Maori grievance, to suspicion about the insistence of Maori leaders, to a willingness to work together to find solutions.

Undoubtedly, there will be occasions when we will face many new issues that will challenge us and our combined commitment to affordable settlements.

However, these need not be feared if we confront them in a spirit of goodwill, cooperation and trust.

To my mind these are the fundamental values that must underpin any relationship.

I turn now to Ngai Tahu to whom I extend the warmest of greetings and to whom I pay tribute.

Especially their negotiating team and its leader Sir Tipene O'Regan.

Today we are to settle a claim that is seven generations old.

A claim referred to by Sir Tipene as a 'taniwha' that has consumed your lives down through the years.

The area covered by the Ngai Tahu claim is the largest single area covered by an Iwi Treaty claim.

This successful resolution will take away the uncertainties and allow the beneficiaries of the settlement to focus on the future rather than the past.

And importantly it will allow other New Zealanders to have certainty as well, to get on with their lives.

Critics often overlook that important aspect of the settlement process.

It is not one-sided, it gives certainty to both sides.

Many individual Ngai Tahu have taken the opportunities offered by society.

The settlement will allow many more to take those opportunities and for Ngai Tahu to prosper as a group.

Seven generations have lived with the grievance.

The eighth will be the first to grow to maturity without the shadow of the claim over their heads.

I acknowledge those who have carried the burden of this claim - both the deceased and the living.

The negotiation has involved large teams from both the Crown and Ngai Tahu.

I want to pay tribute to the professionalism on both sides and the huge effort required to co-ordinate and manage the negotiation process.

Without their professionalism and effort we would not have together achieved a settlement of the size, comprehensive nature and scope we see today.

The compensation for past wrongs is important.

It will allow Ngai Tahu as a tribe to develop a workable economic base and become an economic force in the South Island and New Zealand.

On the evidence of what Ngai Tahu have achieved with interim settlements and the fisheries settlement I have no doubt they will succeed in those goals.

While a lot of work has gone into getting to this point, the journey of renewal and revitalisation for you all is just beginning.

While it is up to both parties - the Crown and Ngai Tahu - to make this settlement endure as a symbol of justice, ultimately, it is up to you to make sure the fruits of this settlement are realised amongst your people - especially your young people.

To that end, I wish you well in your endeavours.

Finally, I would like to congratulate everyone who has been involved in getting us to this point today.

To my Ministerial colleagues, particularly the Hon Douglas Graham, a special recognition for your leadership and commitment.

To all the officials of which many are here today.

And, of course again, to Sir Tipene and your team.

Well done.

The task has not been an easy one but you can all feel a sense of pride in what has been achieved.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.