Iwi see light after decades-long wait
Treaty settlements are edging closer for iwi in the top of the south, with legislation mostly drafted and ready to be passed by Parliament.
Ngati Rarua and Ngati Tama are expected to catch up with the region's other six iwi in signing their deeds of settlement in the next couple of months - and from there, it depends on Parliament.
A spokesman for Attorney-General and Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said when the bills would end up being passed was "contingent on every step up until that point".
"If signings for the final two iwi proceed as expected, if the legislation can be introduced almost immediately, if we have the same number of extra sessions for Treaty bills that the House Business Committee agreed to last year, then you would probably see them enacted by the end of the year," he said.
Iwi in the Nelson region have been waiting for redress for decades, since the Crown recognised historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, signed on this day in 1840.
The spokesman for Mr Finlayson said the Government's intention was to introduce legislation giving effect to the settlements of Rangitane, Ngati Apa, and Ngati Kuia, represented by the Kurahaupo Ki Te Waipounamu Trust - largely based in Marlborough, and the Tainui Taranaki whanau groups - Te Atiawa, Ngati Koata, Ngati Rarua, and Ngati Tama - at the same time.
"The legislation is mostly drafted, [but] there has been a delay caused by the Wakatu litigation," he said.
Wakatu Incorporation brought a separate land claim to the High Court, and Mr Finlayson said it caused "severe delay".
The hold-up was due to the fact that the Crown did not want any double-dipping when it came to Treaty settlements, but Wakatu would not drop its case.
This is because Treaty legislation extinguishes the right to pursue historical claims that might have existed pre-1990s, although iwi are still able to pursue contemporary claims against the Crown.
Wakatu Incorporation came to an agreement with the Crown at the end of last year, however, allowing Treaty settlements and its continuing legal action to continue in tandem.
Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon shared what Ngai Tahu had learnt since its $170 million Treaty settlement with the Crown in 1998 at an inaugural Maori economic summit in Nelson last year, and urged iwi in the top of the south to get prepared.
The total amount from Treaty settlements in the region is expected to be worth $300m to $400m in cash, land, and assets.
Mr Solomon said the governance structure of Ngai Tahu was thought about well before its settlement arrived, with 1996 legislation establishing Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu as the statutory body and tribal representative of Ngai Tahu whanau.
The four iwi with the strongest presence in the Nelson region are: Te Atiawa, Ngati Koata, Ngati Rarua, and Ngati Tama.
Te Atiawa and Ngati Koata signed deeds of settlement on December 21, which set out financial redress of $11.76m for both iwi, including the opportunity to buy Crown land.
A spokesman for Mr Finlayson said the Ngati Rarua and Ngati Tama deeds would not be released until they were ready for signing.
"They have been initialled by the negotiators, but not yet approved by the members of each iwi. We are expecting that they will be able to be released around March," he said.
Nelson MP Nick Smith said "the cloud of Treaty breaches" had hung over the region for too long, and "full and final settlements with all eight top of the south iwi is an achievable goal by Waitangi Day 2014".
"We need fair, just, and affordable settlements that will let iwi put their historic grievances behind them and focus on the future. Putting this stuff right is hugely complex, including trying to be fair to the different iwi and other Maori incorporations like Wakatu, but also ensuring we do not create new grievances with the wider population," he said.
"There is also an economic dividend for our region from these settlements. Iwi are more likely than anyone to invest their capital where their roots have been for centuries, and the prospects of tens of millions of new investment in the region can only be good for the local economy."
Ngati Koata will receive $11.76m in financial redress, plus interest accrued on things such as Crown forest land leases since they signed an "agreement in principal" in 2009.
They'll also receive an apology from the Crown, and have the opportunity to buy Crown properties and forestry land.
Ngati Koata Trust general manager Frans van Boekhout said it would be at least a year before the assets were handed over, but it was important to prepare. The trust was obtaining professional advice from a major accounting firm on its governance structure, "and it's really similar to what Ngai Tahu has done. They're a great example for us to learn from".
The trust would have a commercial arm for doing business, and a beneficial arm for putting funds towards things such as cultural, environmental, and health issues.
"We'll have a balanced portfolio, because obviously we want to spread our risk. We'll spread our investments, and it's probably going to be over property, capital markets, and other business interests," he said.
Ngati Rarua Iwi Trust general manager Hemi Toia said there was "90 per cent clarity" surrounding its settlement package, due to be signed off in the next couple of months.
"The nervousness one has in saying this is that in the past the Crown hasn't been shy about coming forward with amendments," he said.
Mr Toia said he would be able to share the details of the settlement package once it was signed off.
An investment strategy was being developed, however, and the trust's governance plans were already "far in advance".
"We're required to have a non-charitable entity receive the redress from the Crown. They're not able to transfer assets directly to a charitable trust. Ngati Rarua Iwi Trust has charitable status. The assets will initially be transferred to the [non-charitable] Ngati Rarua Settlement Trust."
Mr Toia, who is of North Island origins, said: "When it comes to legal structures and commercial affairs, the iwi down here are very, very comfortable and pretty accomplished. We have been able to access a lot of advice from members within our ranks. It's all go, with a very fast and capital G."
Ngati Tama Manawhenua ki Te Tau Ihu Trust kaihautu Jo Westrupp said the iwi's settlement offer and proposed governance structure were about to undergo ratification by iwi members.
There would be hui in six key locations for Ngati Tama, where iwi members would be asked to approve the settlement package and the new governance structure.
"Our particular deed is working through all the Crown processes presently. Once everything is agreed, Ngati Tama will sign their deed of settlement. We've still got to dot the ‘i's and cross the ‘t's with the Crown," she said.
Mrs Westrupp said the trust was working with PricewaterhouseCoopers to ensure appropriate investment policies and guidelines were in place, after linking up with PwC at last year's economic summit. "We have applied and been approved for some funding, and PwC will be providing independent advice to the governing board to tighten up our investment policies," she said.
Trust chair and principal negotiator Fred Te Miha said there would be no "fast investments" when the settlement eventuated.
"We want to get it working before we get into real business," he said.
Mrs Westrupp agreed: "The new house of Tama needs to be in order and let the foundations settle."
Te Atiawa's settlement package is similar to Ngati Koata's in that it includes $11.76m in financial redress, accrued interest, an apology from the Crown, and the opportunity to buy properties and forestry land. Te Atiawa Manuwhenua Ki Te Tau Ihu Trust chairwoman Glenice Paine could not be reached for comment.
- The Nelson Mail
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