A Crown Treaty negotiator has pocketed $1.5 million, another more than $1m and several others large six-figure sums as the Government ramps up the settlement process.
NZ First leader Winston Peters has slammed the "colossal" payments as unjustified and accused Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson of giving huge contracts to his "favoured mates".
"Settling justifiable Maori grievances is one thing, but National has turned the settlement process into something ugly - a gravy train to financially benefit their chosen ones," Peters said.
Finlayson released details of the payments in response to parliamentary questions from Peters about who the Government had appointed to assist with Treaty negotiations since taking office in 2008 and how much they had been paid. The answers reveal that $5.5m has been paid to 14 individuals in that time, several of them former Cabinet ministers and MPs.
The highest earner was Michael Dreaver, director of Auckland consultancy firm The Policy Shop, who earned $1.5m for working on more than 20 settlements in the Auckland and Hauraki regions. His partner is TVNZ presenter Miriama Kamo, who is also a director of the company.
Dreaver has been described as a go-between for another negotiator, former justice minister Sir Douglas Graham, who earned $186,901 during the period. Graham was last year found guilty of making misleading statements while a director of Lombard Finance.
The second highest earner was Ross Philipson, previously of the Ministry of Economic Development, who made just over $1m. Other big earners were former Auckland District Health Board chair Pat Snedden ($679,808), Film Commission chair Patsy Reddy ($568,917) and former TV reporter and MP, Tukoroirangi Morgan ($439,085).
Details of the payments come two years after the Sunday Star-Times revealed that millions of dollars had gone to law firms that gave legal advice as part of the Treaty settlement process.
Finlayson told the Star-Times the negotiators' results spoke for themselves.
In Tamaki Makaurau, for example, there had been no settlements at all when Dreaver was appointed in 2008 and there were now seven agreements in principle and a signed deed of settlement with 12 groups around Auckland's volcanic cones.
He described the 14 negotiators as "one of the top teams assembled in Government".
The rate of concluded settlements had gone from an average of 1.6 per year under the previous Government to over eight, and was steadily increasing.
He said the cost of negotiating settlements had actually decreased significantly over the past four years.
But Peters said the payments were out of all proportion to the work that was done.
"These are unbelievable sums when it's not even their fulltime occupation.
Finlayson is happy to open the government coffers for these selected few at a time when there is rampant unemployment and an exorbitantly high cost of living."
WHO GOT THE CASH
Treaty negotiator payments since 2008
Rick Barker $48,660
Jim Bolger $29,912
Michael Dreaver $1.5m
Sir Wira Gardiner $85,710
Sir Doug Graham $186,901
John Isles $48,056
Tukoroirangi Morgan $439,085
Ross Philipson $1,095,214
Patsy Reddy $568,917
Pat Snedden $679,808
Paul Swain $272,879
Fran Wilde $98,062
James Willis $17,106
John Wood $442,136
- © Fairfax NZ News