Te Arawa Lakes Deed of Settlement signing

  • Parekura Horomia
Maori Affairs

I want to start my korero today by acknowledging and paying tribute to the many people who have carried this take on behalf of Te Arawa through many decades to where we are today. Some regrettably, are no longer with us. Ahakoa, kua hinga atu, kei kônei râtou â wairua, kei roto i ngâ whakâro, i ngâ roimata, i te kôhimi o ngâ wai o â koutou moana tupuna.

I tautoko my colleague’s mihi to those present – to the Te Arawa Trust Board and whanui, the negotiators from all sides, my colleagues, the wider officials group and to those other groups involved in this settlement, including the local authorities and agencies who are an important part of this settlement. To all who have led, contributed to and supported our reaching this wonderful milestone, kia ora.

There have been a number of you involved throughout this process, and your hard work and leadership, with the support of your people, has brought the claims by Te Arawa to your ancestral lakes to a very positive and commendable resolution.

I commend all the people of Te Arawa who took an active interest in the affairs of Te Arawa and voted on this settlement. I thank those who voted for it, in the spirit of resolving long-standing grievances and moving forward to a better future relationship between the Crown and Te Arawa as Treaty partners, and at a local level between Te Arawa, local government authorities and other interest groups who have also been intimately involved in and supported this settlement.

I am pleased to have been part of these settlement negotiations. This is the first time that I have been directly involved in any negotiations. My involvement has been in relation to the annuity paid to the Trust Board, for which I am the responsible Minister. In the Deed of Settlement the Crown acknowledges that it breached the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles by failing to review the annuity when it materially lost value as a result of inflation.

The settlement package includes annuity redress of $7.3 million as a revision and capitalisation of the annuity, and settlement of remaining annuity issues. The interim escrow arrangement has provided the Trust Board with significant financial benefit from the interest on this redress over the last year.

The annuity revision and capitalisation is significant not only as the remedy for breach, it also marks a subtle shift toward greater Te Arawa autonomy, away from an historic and paternalistic accountability to the Crown for the annuity.

That greater autonomy is an aspect that I would encourage Te Arawa to further consider in the pending development of your post-settlement governance entity and any related decisions on the future of your Trust Board. I think the annuity result is a good one, and in addition to the Te Arawa negotiators I would like to thank my officials, and our negotiator John Isles.

I am aware that it has been a particularly trying negotiation process, as my colleague Margaret has indicated. These settlement negotiations have been marked by extraordinary regional and national interest given the recreational, environmental and economic significance of the lakes.

The negotiations and settlement offer have attracted strong negative opposition and the open and often virulent expression of that opposition has tested the resolve in negotiations of both Te Arawa and the Crown. This has been a year of testing times.

These testing times have highlighted the constructive, amicable and sheer courageous manner in which these negotiations have progressed, with a real effort to understand, respect and provide for a broad myriad of sometimes complementary and sometimes competing interests.

Notable is this regard has been the stoicism of Te Arawa, your negotiators, and indeed your local government authorities and other local supporters. You have faced frequent abuse, taunts and often ignorant and self-absorbed aggression in your own rohe, and I'm well aware how tough that can be.

Yet you persisted in negotiating and supporting a positive resolution of the lakes claim with dignity and foresight. You managed to accommodate extensive commercial, environmental and recreational interests of the wider public and even opposition groups, reflected in many aspects of the settlement package. Such as the establishment and functions of the Rotorua Lakes Strategy Group; the protocols with various government departments; and the maintenance of public access rights, commercial usage and recreational enjoyment of the lakes in recognition of their iconic status as one of this country’s most prized natural resources.

The Crown has not always recognised Mâori interests or customary values in natural resources, nor appropriately protected these in laws and policies. As a result Mâori have lost and been deprived of significant traditional natural resources and places of spiritual and cultural value. New Zealand owes much of its wealth and its lifestyle to lands and natural resources once held by Mâori. This is clearly evident in the extensive recreational and commercial use of the Te Arawa lakes.

Where such resources have been acquired or managed in ways that breach the Treaty of Waitangi the Crown has accepted a moral obligation, rather than a legal obligation, on behalf of all New Zealanders to put right those wrongs to the fullest extent that it possibly can. In doing so the Crown hopes to lay the basis for a positive and constructive future relationship with Mâori.

We have endeavoured to achieve this in this settlement. I acknowledge, however, that the Crown has been constrained by wider considerations and issues of national interest, and has not been able to go as far as Te Arawa may have desired.

While the Deed contains a number of provisions that address many practical interests of Te Arawa, the Crown, local authorities and the general public in the Te Arawa lakes, I think this settlement is most notable for the relationships that it establishes, supports and strengthens.

The settlement endeavours to restore and recognise the spiritual, cultural, economic and traditional importance of the lakes and lakes resources to Te Arawa. The lakes have traditionally been a rich resource for Te Arawa in many ways. At a practical level they provide food, shelter and avenues of transport. At a more spiritual level they are a taonga and a foundation for Te Arawa identity, mana, cultural integrity, wairua and manaakitanga.

The cultural redress in this settlement is intended to address some of the practical, cultural and spiritual interests of Te Arawa in your relationship with your lakes. The return to Te Arawa of inalienable stratum title to thirteen lakebeds is designed to restore your link, your claim, and your association with your lakes. Whilst subject to the protection of a number of ongoing rights and interests of the public, the return of title effects and reaffirms a tangible and indisputable re-association for Te Arawa with your lakes.

It also provides the solid foundation required for other redress instruments such as the statutory establishment and input into the Strategy Group, the protocols established with various government Ministers and their departments, and the relationship agreement with the Crown concerning exercise of respective ownership interests. The titles and other mechanisms provide means for Te Arawa to continue to assert, manage and ensure your interests in and associations with the lakes.

Secondly, the settlement is intended to enhance the ongoing Treaty relationship between Te Arawa and the Crown. This is given effect not only through the recognition of Te Arawa’s interests and associations with the lakes in the titles transfer, but also particularly in the statutory acknowledgements which provide a heightened authority for and recognition of Te Arawa interests in national and regional planning processes, and in the protocols with Ministers and departments who are involved locally and directly with the lakes and Te Arawa on a regular basis.

Thirdly, the settlement includes the statutory establishment of the Rotorua Lakes Strategy Group as a permanent joint committee under the Local Government Act 2002. It establishes Te Arawa as a joint member of this committee as of right, and not by indulgence, with a direct strategic management role in the lakes, and importantly in the wider catchments.

I support my colleague Margaret’s acknowledgment that Te Arawa, the Rotorua District Council and Environment Bay of Plenty have for many years enjoyed constructive and positive relationships in the ongoing strategic management of the lakes and in wider environmental, community and other endeavours. The spirit, foresight and respect engendered in those relationships and reflected in the wider Rotorua community must be applauded and, I agree, represent an ideal and model for other iwi, local authorities and wider communities.

The settlement strengthens the regional relationships developed through that strategy group and continues this group in a stronger statutory form, recognising the traditional relationship of Te Arawa with their ancestral lakes.

This new redress instrument is innovative and progressive - I applaud it and hope to see others like it developed. Seldom are such new redress instruments developed, particularly beyond the traditional Crown-Mâori relationship.

The greatest relationship to be strengthened through this settlement, and through the relationships I have just discussed, is that between Te Arawa and the general public. The Te Arawa lakes are an extremely significant resource and taonga to Te Arawa foremost, to this region and to the nation.

It should be clearly understood that this settlement recognises and restores not only the traditional, cultural and spiritual relationship of Te Arawa with their ancestral lakes but with the support and grace of Te Arawa provides for ongoing public access and enjoyment of the lakes, including commercial and recreational use of the lakes. I can think of no greater gesture than this willingness to share such a prized and culturally significant taonga.

This settlement is extremely significant. The resolution of grievances relating to the lakes, the manner in which this resolution has been reached, and the resulting settlement are of great benefit for Te Arawa, the Crown, the Rotorua community and the wider nation. Concluding such settlements is important for the Crown, its Treaty partner - and for all New Zealanders.

The progression of fair and durable resolutions to past issues provides us with a solid foundation to move forward constructively, with greater understanding and respect of a positive future all New Zealanders.

To Te Arawa – yours, our, journey is not over. I once again commend all who took part in the process of developing and approving this Deed of Settlement and encourage you to take an equally role in the upcoming and important governance entity development process.

It will be through strong leadership and an appropriate and effective governance arrangement that the people of Te Arawa will be best served by this settlement.

I congratulate Te Arawa on the way you have come together over this settlement, and the resounding support demonstrated for it. I hope that this success and the many achievements inherent in it set an effective platform for your remaining land claims and the ongoing forward development and consolidation of Te Arawa whanui.

I welcome this settlement. I again thank all who have contributed to and supported it, and am pleased to be able to enjoy this occasion with Te Arawa and everyone involved.