Big Treaty deals after years of fighting

Last updated 05:00 10/12/2012

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Two top of the south iwi will end decades of negotiations with the Crown by signing historic Treaty of Waitangi settlements before Christmas.

Te Atiawa and Ngati Koata are scheduled to sign their deeds of settlement with the Crown on December 21.

Ngati Koata will sign its settlement at Nelson's Whakatu Marae in the morning. It expects to host 300 guests for the occasion.

Te Atiawa Manawhenua Ki Te Tau Ihu will follow. It plans to hold its signing at Picton's Waikawa Marae that afternoon.

The two settlements have been valued at $11.7 million each.

Porirua-based Ngati Toa Rangitira, which also has connections to the top of the south, signed its deed of settlement on Friday.

The settlements will contain a Crown apology acknowledging the breaches against the iwi, and will provide cultural and commercial redress.

The path to the signings was cleared last month after Wakatu Incorporation came to an agreement with the Crown that it would pursue its Wai 56 claim without stalling top of the south Treaty settlement negotiations.

Each iwi will receive cash and property. As part of the cultural redress, several placenames will be changed. For example, Queen Charlotte Sound will be altered to Queen Charlotte Sound/Totaranui.

It could be another year until the iwi receive their financial compensation, as each settlement has to be passed as an act of Parliament.

A spokesman for Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said the Crown wanted to progress the legislation for Ngati Toa, the three Kurahaupo iwi, and the Tainui Taranaki iwi together once the deeds were signed, which should be early next year.

He said the timing for the legislation's passage through Parliament depended on several factors.

Ngati Koata general manager Frans van Boekhout said that realistically, it would be early 2014 before the assets were handed back to all top of the south iwi.

Mr van Boekhout said Ngati Koata had purchased some Crown forests and had been given the right to purchase other properties.

Ngati Koata trustee Roma Hippolite said the signing would be a "significant" and happy day, and would represent a milestone of recognition for past injustices.

He said it had taken a long time to have a tribunal find that injustices against it did take place.

He said the iwi had been told that it was a full and final settlement and that the Crown could not afford to give the iwi any more.

However, he said, the Crown had bailed out private investors like South Canterbury Finance since starting negotiations with the iwi.

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"We are accepting it and getting on with life, but we will remind both the government of the day and anyone in New Zealand society, if they think this is fair when the Government can bail out any number of companies any time they want to, then we've got a sorry view of what's fair in our country."

He said few of the original claimants were still alive, but the descendants of the trustees who signed the claim form were alive.

Mr Hippolite said that if it had not been for Wakatu Incorporation pursuing the Wai 56 claim, the iwi could have signed a settlement halfway through last year.

The settlements would be a useful injection into the top of the south's economy, he said.

"It will be good for everybody."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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