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Will The Crown Replace Lost Treaty Settlements?

Will The Crown Have To Replace Lost Treaty Settlements?

ACT Justice Spokesman, Stephen Franks, today said he was appalled to find that the Government had not had advice on the risk of having to replace lost Treaty settlement funds if iwi lose the money.

Stephen Franks raised his concerns in the Justice and Electoral Select Committee’s Financial Review of the Ministry of Justice which was released today.

Mr Franks said the Ministry of Justice was clearly aware there was a risk. “If Maori miss out on benefiting from Treaty Settlements because of imprudent investment by iwi bosses they may, even under existing law, hold the Crown liable. This could apply if it is foreseeable that the particular iwi are inappropriate stewards of settlement funds.

“Justice Department officials told the Justice & Electoral Select Committee that ‘accountability and transparency’ requirements had been developed for Treaty settlement processes. But they had not gone further to work out the risks of being held responsible.

“This is irresponsible to other New Zealanders, but also to the members of iwi. Their mana will be trampled if predictable scams and high risk ventures mean they are left with nothing but ashes. The Alaskan natives went through this experience nearly 30 years ago. ‘Closing the gaps’ in Alaska may have been set back by generations as a consequence.

“Te Ohu Kai Moana (Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission) is serious about ensuring robustness in the recipients of quota benefits. I understand no claimant organisation has yet fully satisfied the Commission’s accountability and transparency standards.

“We need urgent reassurance that the Office of Treaty Settlements and the Ministers in charge of Treaty negotiations are being at least similarly careful about these issues.

“As a lawyer I am only too well aware of the inventiveness of some judges. They like to impose liabilities on anyone other than those who author their own misfortune. In this case, however, if a fragile collective organisation gets a large settlement and blows it, there would be real moral culpability on the Crown.

“This Government is fostering retrospective liability for tobacco companies. Smokers knew of the damage they do to themselves. How could this Government resist the arguments that predictable losses by iwi must be recompensed? said Stephen Franks.

ENDS

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