Te Kokiri Ngatahi - Opening Address

  • Christopher Finlayson
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations

E nga mana, e nga reo, rau rangatira ma - tena koutou katoa.

It is good to see you all again as we continue our dialogue on Treaty settlements and how we can complete them to our mutual satisfaction.

I am particularly pleased we have finally gathered today as we have needed to postpone this year's hui several times to provide the greatest number of people with the opportunity to attend.

Most recently, we postponed the hui out of respect for Sir Archie Taiaroa and his whanau after Sir Archie passed away in September.

Sir Archie was a great leader, peacemaker and negotiator and a man of honour and principle. His legacy is one to which we can all aspire as we engage in settlements.

I deeply regret that we were not able to finalise the Whanganui River negotiations in Sir Archie's lifetime.

Takoto mai e te rangatira, Moe mai, moe mai ra.

Last year when I spoke twice in this forum I was still at a very early stage in my experience in leading settlements for the Crown.

It was a job I had looked forward to keenly and was extremely optimistic about the progress that could be made.

In my view, the settlement process is a very positive one and achieving settlements is about a number of very positive things.

First, it is about our shared history - trying to achieve a measure of justice for the negative impact elements of that history have had on iwi and hapū.

Secondly, achieving settlements can generate relationships with the Crown that are much more productive than in even the relatively recent past.

While they undoubtedly retain frustrating elements, post-settlement relationships are largely positive rather than negative.

Finally, effective cultural and economic redress gives settling groups a platform for further development based on their own choices about what they want to do and where they want to go.

Too few have had this autonomy in the past.

These are excellent things to work toward and when I began this job at the end of 2008 it was with unqualified enthusiasm.

I am happy to say that being involved in achieving settlement progress has more than lived up to all of my expectations and, if anything, I am even more enthusiastic than I was in late 2008. 

Establishing a dialogue with you about improving the settlement process and how we can reach the Government's goal of completing them by 2014 has been very stimulating and rewarding.

But I have to say that by far the most rewarding aspect of my work as Minister has been working with groups and regional groupings as we move towards settlement and being a part of the celebrations when significant milestones on the road to settlement are reached.

Progress in negotiations since 2009

And our joint achievements since last year have been very significant.

In terms of numbers they include recognition of 14 mandates, 16 Terms of Negotiation, 12 Agreements in Principle, 8 Deeds of Settlement, the introduction of four settlement bills to Parliament and the passage of two settlement acts, including the initial Waikato River legislation, incorporating changes agreed last year.

These milestones represent major momentum in settling the historical claims for many groups.

Once concluded, they will protect and reinforce the cultural heritage and provide an economic base for future development for many thousands of people.

It is the largest volume of milestones achieved by OTS and claimants in a single year and it is almost twice the output of the next largest year.

Specific achievements that need mentioning include establishing an innovative process for the settlement of the historical claims of the 20 groups with standing in Tāmaki Makaurau.

The first major milestones to be achieved within that process have already been marked, including an agreed structure for the ownership and management of the volcanic cones of the region.

We began the search for a solution when we asked the first Treaty Negotiations Minister Sir Douglas Graham to look at the issues that were inhibiting settlement in the region and had stalled progress since the signing of the first Agreement in Principle in 2006 with Ngati Whatua o Orakei.

Sir Douglas talked with all of the groups and together they reached a consensus on how to move forward.

While there is still a long way to go we do have an overall framework within which groups can make progress at a pace that suits them.

I am optimistic about future progress and two people directly involved, Michael Dreaver and Paul Majurey, will be talking to you about this framework later today.

In terms of other large areas, we have made major progress in Te Tairawhiti with both Tūranganui-a-Kiwa and Ngāti Porou. And we continue to make good progress in Te Tau Ihu.

In summary, there are more groups making progress through the settlement process than at any other time since the process began in the mid 1990s. The majority of the country is either complete, has reached major settlement milestones or is taking part in the mandating and negotiations process. I am mindful however there are still those waiting to even get to the negotiating table. 

That means the goal of completing the settlement process is within sight and, with goodwill on both sides, achievable.

This also gives some urgency to the topic the Deputy Prime Minister has touched on and on which he will speak in greater detail later today - post settlement relationships between iwi and the Crown.

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill

I would also like to talk briefly about the bill recently introduced to recognise and protect customary interests in the marine and coastal area.

I would like to thank all of you who took part in the consultation hui leading up to this legislation. They were carried out in excellent spirit on all sides and I found them very stimulating to attend.

The consultation processes have resulted in a bill that recognises the relationship that has existed and continues to exist between iwi and hapū and the marine and coastal area.

The bill restores the customary interests that were extinguished by the Foreshore and Seabed Act.  It provides for the recognition of customary interests in the following three ways:

  • the right to go to the High Court (or negotiate directly with the Crown) to seek customary marine title;
  • provides for protected customary rights; and
  • recognises the mana tuku iho exercised in the marine and coastal area by iwi and hapū as tangata whenua.

The legislation will replace Crown ownership with a non-ownership model.  This approach recognises that the common marine and coastal area is a place where all New Zealanders have rights and interests and allows for the balancing of those interests.

This novel approach reflects the reality that these rights and interests do not have to be in conflict.

Update since the last hui in 2009

However, to return to the business of this hui, when we spoke last year the Crown sought feedback on a number of ideas about how the Treaty settlement process could be improved and momentum could be increased.

We also sought your ideas on how the process could be improved.

Many of those suggested innovations - from the Crown and from settling groups - have already been implemented.

At a time of fiscal stringency and as an indicator of the importance we place on the settlement process, we increased the resources available for settlements both this year and last, with an extra $6.5m allocated to the process in Budget 2010.

It complements my announcement at our meeting last year of the 60% increase in funding from the Crown available to those who are not eligible to funding from the Crown Forestry Rental Trust and the 10% increase in Crown funding for those that do have access to funding from CFRT.

This extra money will be used mainly for more resources to allow the increasing number of groups moving though the settlement process to do so more quickly. This requires more negotiation staff to facilitate concurrent negotiations and faster drafting of Deeds of Settlement. 

The money will also fund increased use of Chief Crown Negotiators enabling Rangatira to Rangatira negotiations to a significantly greater extent than in the past.

Iwi Secondments

As a direct result of last year's hui we are now supporting a pilot iwi secondment programme in which members of the public service can work on settlements for groups in negotiations with the government.

This is a great opportunity for both the settling group and the people who are seconded.

Both will benefit - the settling group from the special expertise and experience secondees bring, particularly their knowledge of government processes which can be rather baffling to outsiders.

And the secondees will have the satisfaction of working on something of real significance.

We have three up and running with Ngai Takoto, Te Aupouri and Ngai Tamanuhiri. I understand all are working well. 

This is a pilot programme and there is capacity for up to seven more secondments. I know some of you have expressed concern about the criteria. I'd like you to know we are committed to making this programme work and we're looking at ways to make things more flexible.

We will be in touch with groups who have already expressed an interest in secondments about these changes. If you're interested in a secondment and haven't told us, contact your nearest regional TPK office for help.


Iwi mentoring


I am pleased to announce a pilot iwi mentoring programme. Again, this is a direct result of last year's hui. This is an opportunity for those that have completed historical settlements or built up their knowledge on the process to talk about their experiences with those who are still going through the process and offer advice where it is requested.

There are many lessons that have been learned on the Maori side of the settlement equation and it is important that those earlier in the process have the benefit of those lessons.

I will establish an Iwi Mentoring Steering Group comprising two independent members and one representative from the Office of Treaty Settlements. The Steering Group will facilitate and match iwi and mentors.

I will write to groups in negotiations shortly asking for expressions of interest. Initially, we would like to focus the trial programme on small iwi who have limited access to resources. I look forward to seeing this programme up and running with mentors in the coming months.


Ideas to improve the condition of landbanked properties


We recently also sought your views on some ideas to improve the condition of land-banked properties. I want to thank all of those who provided feedback.

The feedback we received was mainly positive, particularly in relation to the opportunities for the early transfer and private purchase of properties and the proposal to remove obsolete and unfit improvements from some properties with iwi agreement.

A number of iwi were, however, concerned the idea to restrict the maximum deferred selection period over properties with high holding costs to one year might prejudice them in relation to groups that have already settled.

There was also some concern expressed about the potential for the early release of unwanted properties from the Landbank and the proposal to excuse surplus properties from the Protection Mechanism process when all the groups in an area have a reasonably finalised property package.

A number of iwi suggested the Crown offer to lease vacant properties to claimants at a low cost to ensure properties are tenanted and looked after. Many iwi expressed a desire to increase their dialogue with the Crown on regional landbanking matters.

In light of the feedback received, I intend to proceed to implement the ideas in a flexible way depending on their appropriateness to particular regions and iwi.

The Government will, however, be taking a very cautious approach to the implementation of the ideas that iwi expressed concern about to ensure groups are not prejudiced.

Properties will only be released early from the Landbank if it is very clear they are unwanted by all the iwi with interests in them. Similarly, properties will only be excused from the Protection Mechanism process when all the groups in an area are comfortable with this or have already reached a Deed of Settlement.

I am also confident the proposal to limit the maximum deferred selection period over some properties with high holding costs to one year will not prevent the Crown and iwi from negotiating redress packages which are fair in relation to the redress received by groups who have settled previously.

Savings resulting from the implementation of the ideas will be put back into the operating budget to improve the upkeep of other properties.

We are also keen to engage with iwi more frequently on regional landbanking matters. We will work with iwi in their respective regions, including making use of collective forums where these exist.

Of course, the best way to ensure properties in the landbank are divested efficiently is making sure that Treaty settlements continue to occur in a timely fashion, at the accelerated rate we have set since November 2008


Use of public conservation land in Treaty settlements


We have recently amended a policy that has been in place since 1994 on the use of public conservation land in Treaty settlements.

The policy now provides us with more flexibility in offering iwi greater opportunities for managing conservation land where there are recognised strong cultural relationships.  These changes bring the policy into line with recent practice.

Negotiators will still have to balance an iwi's cultural associations and desires against other public values. But they will have more scope to investigate the transfer of larger sites that recognise the dislocation of iwi from ancestral sites.

Cumulatively the proposals for iwi secondments, mentoring and improving the condition of landbanked properties and the changes to the policy on the use of public conservation land represent significant progress in Treaty settlement practice and policy.


2010 Regional engagement

Regional discussions with groups in preparation for this hui identified some areas of concern that I would like to comment on briefly.

Challenges related to obtaining and maintaining a secure mandate, resolving overlapping claims and agreeing the devolution of redress to sub-groups were raised as key impediments to settlement momentum.

The Crown continues to believe that the best solutions to these issues are achieved by discussions between the principals rather than seeking to have solutions imposed from the outside.

This has been a hard won and occasionally bitter lesson for the Crown.

Although the Crown or some other external body can impose a solution in the name of progress that progress is often an illusion and the settlement momentum generated by these methods is difficult to sustain.

Over the past year we have seen some innovative solutions to these issues developing in various parts of the country. I encourage you to use the workshop sessions today to discuss with other iwi how they have approached the resolution of such issues so this knowledge can be shared and further solutions developed.

Some groups also expressed frustrations about changes in Crown officials, process, timeframes, and milestones. These sorts of changes are difficult to avoid completely.  However, changes have been made to the structure of the Office of Treaty Settlements over the past year to support a regional approach to negotiations.

This is helping the Crown to retain critical institutional knowledge while providing flexibility in the allocation of staff and funding as priorities and workloads change within a region.

Many groups have seen the benefits of this change and have been complimentary about their relationships with OTS and DOC, the quality of project management in some settlement processes and the rapidity with which they were able to achieve milestones.

I am confident this new structure, alongside the increased resourcing, means the Crown has the capacity to continue to respond to the increasing pace of settlements.

That said I think there are still some areas where we can have further productive discussion and we will see what develops in some of these areas later today.

Message of caution

But I would also like to encourage some caution as well.

We will undoubtedly make further progress in modifying the system but I am unconvinced that constant major change to either policy settings or process will pay significant dividends for either settling groups or the Crown.

I would suggest to you that we have reached a point at which most of the approaches that are going to work in settlements have been tried and we are able to use that experience to accommodate most effective variations on current process and policy.

For that reason I would like to endorse the remarks made by the Deputy Prime Minister.

While we recognise that each settling group is unique we also recognise that the major benefits groups realize from settlements follow the completion of the settlement.

We also know that the marginal returns from prolonged negotiation diminish drastically over time.

I would also like to add something to another comment made by the Deputy Prime Minister.

Not all aspects of the Crown-iwi relationship need to be placed into the framework provided by the historical settlements process or, indeed, the Treaty itself.

When iwi and hapū had little or no resources the levers those frameworks provide were very effective in generating some countervailing power for Māori in their interaction with the hitherto all-powerful Crown.

Now that iwi and hapū have resources of their own and the ability to develop and promote their own ideas the major determinants of their success in doing so will be the quality of those ideas and their ability to explain them, whether they are interacting with the private sector or the public sector.

As the Deputy Prime Minister said, a good idea is a good idea.

If you are effective in generating them you will attract attention, partnerships and economic and social investment that will pay off for all of us.

While great progress has been made and is being made, we still have a long way to go to achieve settlements for all of us. Continuing refinement will mean better results for both Maori and the Crown.

I believe that is the key purpose of our meeting today - how can we apply our minds to completing settlements in the most effective way?

I look forward to our discussions.