Key proposes Treaty payment, but quiet on amount

SIMON DAY AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 10:43 06/02/2014
Fairfax NZ

Prime Minister John Key speaks out trying to fast-track Ngapuhi's Treaty settlement, with an offer of cash up front.

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Photo: Chris Skelton/Fairfax NZ Zoom
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Prime Minister John Key is proposing an up-front payment to Ngapuhi to try and speed up their Treaty settlement.

The iwi is the country's largest and one of its leaders wants at least $500 million in order to reflect that but Key, who denied he was undermining the settlement process by putting an offer on the table before there was a mandate to negotiate, said that's unrealistic.

Key used his annual Waitangi breakfast speech this morning to urge Ngapuhi leaders to set aside their personal differences and settle with the Crown to lead an economic revival in Northland.

"My challenge to all Ngapuhi today is this: Put aside your differences, look to the future, embrace the challenges that are before you."

Key said he wanted to see a settlement this year.

"If that can be done then I am prepared to look at some form of payment on account to incentivise people to act in a positive and progressive manner."

This could see Ngapuhi receive a portion of the settlement once an agreement is reached but before it was finalised in legislation.

Key said this had happened with previous settlements and would not pose any extra cost to the Crown.

He refused to elaborate on the size of the settlement they were considering but pointed to the Ngai Tahu, Tuhoe and Tainui settlements which were all about  $170 million.

Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau, said they were four times larger than Ngai Tahu and expected to receive a settlement which reflected that - about $500 or $600 million.

Tau said the offer of a payment on account was generous but the iwi still had to formalise their mandate and who would represent them in their negotiations.

"We haven't asked for it, they've offered it... Everybody knows that iwi when they go along the settlement route they have to pay for their things themselves, it's cost us $3.5 million to get to where we are today but we've had no assistance and he's probably talking about that."

It was time Ngapuhi resolved their differences but the offer of an up-front payment would not force them to settle, he said.

"I don't think any amount of money is going to give us an incentive to go anywhere. We know where we want to go and we'll get there whether the Crown offers that up front or not and at this point in time we don't know what that really means, what they're offering."

A large settlement would make the iwi the biggest driver of economic development in the region, he said.

Key laughed off the figures tabled by Tau, saying negotiating parties often started a long way apart and that population was not considered in settlement negotiations.

They also had to be fair to other iwi when it came to determining the size of a settlement to ensure they were enduring.

He denied he was undermining the settlement process by putting such a deal on the table before any group was given the mandate to negotiate on behalf of Ngapuhi.

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Labour leader David Cunliffe said Key was "throwing cash at a complex problem".

"I think the Prime Minister is going to struggle to get a lot of vote from Maori this year," he said.

"After the reception we had yesterday from Ngapuhi I am not surprised the government is worried."

TIME TO MOVE FORWARD

Key also said it was time to look past the Treaty settlement era and at how the relationship between Maori and the Crown would work.

"It's all very well to reach Treaty settlements and say we can move on together. But governments will be judged not just by how they negotiate settlements but by whether they honour them, not only tomorrow but 25 years in the future," he said.

"We see settlements as establishing a new relationship between the Crown and Maori, as we move into a post-settlement environment."

Key said they had established social accords with some iwi as part of their settlements and these showed the benefits of Treaty settlements.

"It's not just about money and commercial opportunities: It is also about establishing a new relationship with the Crown."

Key said they also showed  the Government could not solve Maori socio-economic disparity on its own.

"The Crown needs to work more effectively to target its resources to Maori needs, and it is prepared to change the way it works with iwi and Maori community groups to achieve this."

Key also used his speech to again emphasise what his government had done for Maori in the area of Treaty settlements, education and health.

Key said a goal to settle all Treaty claims by 2014 would not be met but that they were in negotiations with almost all iwi "willing and able" to settle.

Maori Council co chairman Maanu Paul, acknowledged the difficulties the Government and Maori had in the past but was grateful to Key for the work the National Party has done.

"The Maori Council and the government over the last 30 years have met more times in court than in parliament. Today's speech I took a lot of heart from. It was full of hope and positivity," Paul said

Paul was well aware of the benefits and progress Maori had achieved under National's reign.

"(The speech) recognised, and I was quite surprised it did, that this Prime Minister has the capability to extend the hand of generosity," he said.

WET START AT WAITANGI

The celebrations of the 174th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Waitangi got off to a wet start on the Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands.

A crowd of about 200 braved wet and windy conditions at Waitangi to attend the dawn service at the upper marae. The public sheltered under umbrellas outside the meeting house, while the politicians were warm inside the wharenui.

The last political leader to speak to the service, Hone Harawira, was the most memorable.

He paid respect to the memory of former Labour MP Parekura Horomia and Nelson Mandela, who both died last year.

"He was able to bring the same joy to his life as Nelson Mandela," Harawira said of Horomia.

Quoting a speech from Mandela's memorial service by Barack Obama, Harawira joked to Prime Minister, John Key, that he had missed that day's service but made it to the next day. Key had been critical of Harawira's trip to South Africa, labelling it a holiday.

Accompanied by a sign language interpreter, Harawira was reminded of the Mandela memorial where a imposter interpreter had bluffed his way to stage.

"But I don't think we are going to see her on the news charged with something," Harawira said of his interpreter.

Key lead the congregation in prayer thanking the nations forefathers for their "courage to come together and sign the Treaty."

He honoured the work of New Zealand's police, firefighters and military. The Prime Minister also paid tribute to the memory of Horomia.

"We pray that 2014 will be a prosperous, happy but mostly safe year," Key said.

Cunliffe, stressed unity among New Zealand's people in his prayer to the congregation.

"May it be a nation of mercy, may it be a nation of plenty, may it be a nation of coming together of all peoples," he said.

Key and Cunliffe accompanied each other out of the service, although little appeared to be said as they battled the rain.

Winston Peters and Meteria Turei did not attend the service. Green MP Denise Roche spoke on behalf of Turei.

- Fairfax Media

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