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New principles to guide Treaty claims settlement

Thursday 20 July 2000 Media Statement

New principles to guide the settlement of historical Treaty claims


Six key principles are being adopted to guide the Government in negotiating settlements of historical claims under the Treaty of Waitangi, the Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Margaret Wilson, announced today.

The principles have been established as part of the Government's appraisal of the criteria and processes for the settlement of historical claims, which has just been completed.

"The principles-based process has been adopted to provide certainty in the general approach the Government will take to negotiations," says Ms Wilson. "At the same time, the principles framework will allow for flexibility in negotiations, the need for which has become clear during my discussions with claimants.

"This approach will enable genuine differences among the various claimants to be recognised and accommodated.

"The principles are intended to ensure that settlements are fair, durable, final and occur in a timely manner" said Ms Wilson.

The principles are as follows:

Good Faith

The negotiating process is to be conducted in good faith, based on mutual trust and cooperation towards a common goal.

Restoration of relationship

The strengthening of the relationship is an integral part of the settlement process and will be reflected in any settlement. The settlement of historical grievances also needs to be understood within the context of wider government policies that are aimed at restoring and developing the Treaty relationship - for example, the Government's "Closing the Gaps" programme and the development of policy to address contemporary claims.

Just redress

Redress should relate fundamentally to the nature and extent of breaches suffered. This government has ensured the final abolition of the "fiscal envelope" policy of the former National Government, while maintaining a fiscally prudent approach. Existing settlements will be used as benchmarks for future settlements where appropriate. While the Government will continue to honour the relativity clause in the Tainui and Ngai Tahu settlements, it will not be included in future settlements. The reason for this is that each claim is treated on its merits and does not have to be fitted under a predetermined fiscal cap, as was the case under National's policy.

Fairness between claims

There needs to be consistency in the treatment of claims. In particular “like should be treated as like” so that similar claims receive a similar level of fiscal redress.

Transparency

The Government will give consideration to how to promote greater understanding of the issues. First, it is important that claimants have sufficient information to enable them to understand the basis on which claims are settled. Secondly, there is a need to promote greater public understanding of the Treaty and the settlement process.

Government-negotiated

The Treaty settlement process is necessarily one of negotiation between claimants and the Government as the only two parties who can, by agreement, achieve durable, fair and final settlements. The Government's direct negotiation with claimants ensures delivery of the agreed settlement and minimises costs to all parties.

Other matters:

"The Labour-Alliance government has now moved entirely away from the fiscal envelope concept in planning" said Ms Wilson.

"In the 2000/01 Budget the appropriation for Treaty Settlements is based on ensuring there is a reasonable and sufficient provision for the settlement of Treaty claims for the period of the appropriation."

"$400 million has been appropriated for the period 1999/2000 – 2003/4. This is less than the amount 'left' in the old government's envelope but it has been set because officials consider it will be a reasonable and sufficient provision for Treaty settlements over that period. If more is needed, there is an opportunity to adjust the amount at each annual budget.


"The appraisal reconfirmed existing policy that public conservation land is not readily available for settlement of Treaty claims.

“The Government will pay special attention to mandate and cross-claim issues and will work closely with individual claimants to ensure a robust process," says Ms Wilson. "Unlike the previous Government, this Government recognises that it needs to be flexible regarding these issues and that different approaches will be needed for different claimant groups. We will be working with claimants to this end.

“The Government has reaffirmed policy that Crown minerals (including petroleum), which are owned and managed in the national interest, will not be included for consideration in the historical claims process. However, the Government will explore ways to address the Crown’s contemporary obligations to Maori under the Treaty with regard to natural resources.

“I also intend to take a proposal to Cabinet, with the Minister for Maori Affairs, to seek a comprehensive review of the Treaty of Waitangi Act. I believe a review is needed to ensure the future role and focus of the Tribunal is consistent with the Government’s overall objectives in both historical and contemporary issues" said Ms Wilson.


ENDS

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