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Pouakani Claims Settlement Bill

5 December 2000 Margaret Wilson Speech Notes


Mr Speaker I move that the Pouakani Claims Settlement Bill be read a third time.

Mr Speaker this is the final stage in the parliamentary journey of a small and relatively uncomplicated Bill. But it is significant in that it is the first Treaty settlement legislation passed by the 46th Parliament. And it is the first settlement where the main grievance concerned the operation and impact of the native land laws.

Mr Speaker, this Bill makes clear that this is a full and final settlement of all issues in relation to the Pouakani grievances, excluding Pouakani claims to the Waikato River.

It is a small settlement, but it is part of a wider process that continues to gain momentum.

Another settlement deed was initialled earlier this year with the group Te Uri o Hau. The wider membership of Te Uri o Hau has ratified the negotiated settlement package and we will be signing a Deed of Settlement on the 13th of December.

I expect that another settlement deed will be initialled before end of this year, and others will follow soon.

Mr Speaker, I am proud to move the final stage of a Bill which enables us to bring to an end a longstanding grievance, and I thank the members of this House for their support in bringing the Bill to this point so quickly.

I also want to take this final opportunity in the House to publicly express my thanks to the representatives of the Pouakani people who have undertaken settlement negotiations honourably, and with a great degree of pragmatism.

A number of people have given many hours of their time and much emotional energy to bringing the claim to a conclusion. I particularly want to mention Mr John Hanita Paki who has led the Pouakani claim over many years through to this point.

I was delighted that Mr Paki and other members of the Pouakani people turned out in force to celebrate the introduction of the legislation, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with those who travelled so far for that occasion.

On this occasion, the Pouakani trustees have chosen not to travel to Wellington as a group to be present for this debate, in order to allow the Bill to be passed at the earliest opportunity.

We all recognise, however, the importance of marking significant milestones, and I understand that the Pouakani people intend to celebrate the settlement date itself with an appropriate ceremony. I would be delighted to accept their invitation to attend that event next year.

The Pouakani claim relates to the loss of more than one hundred thousand acres of land through the operation and impact of the Native Land Laws late in the 19th century.

That loss forms one of two reasons for the settlement. The other reason relates to an unlawful boundary decision by the Native Land Court in 1891 which resulted in a significant area being excluded from the Pouakani block.

I turn now briefly to one item of redress:

Some of the excluded area now forms part of the Pureora Forest Central block, an exotic plantation forest owned by the Crown and managed by Crown Forestry Management Limited.

Under the settlement, the Pouakani claimants have an option to purchase at market value that part of the Pureora Central block that lies within their claim area. This area is known as the Pouakani forest.

At the same time, there has been for some time a proposal to regenerate the native Pureora forest vegetation, after the exotic forest is harvested. This proposal is promoted by the NZ Native Forests Restoration Trust, led by Stephen King, and its potential cost has been estimated at over 27 million dollars.

I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight over the relationship between the forestry redress in the settlement and Mr King’s proposal.

As a result of action relating to the boundary dispute, a Court Order has been in place since 1987 that has prevented any felling of trees in the forest now offered to the Pouakani people.

The Treaty settlement will remove the 1987 Court Order whether or not the Pouakani people choose to acquire the forest.

In fact, the Treaty settlement had to be negotiated before any decisions could be made on the future of the forest.

Governments (both current and past) have always seen any decision over the Native Forests Restoration Trust proposal as being dependent upon prior resolution of the disputed boundary and the Treaty claim.

The option to purchase the forest at market value is a fundamental commercial component of the negotiated settlement package.

The Pouakani negotiators were aware of the interest by the Native Forests Restoration Trust before they agreed to the Deed of Settlement. They were also aware that any transfer of the forest to them was to be at market value of the trees and land.

The valuation of the Pouakani forest in the context of the settlement will be a valuation of the land plus the existing plantation trees, following a process agreed in the Settlement Deed.

No assumptions need be made in the valuation about the use the Pouakani people may make of the land following the removal of the plantation trees.

When assets are transferred to claimants under a settlement, it is not appropriate for the Crown to dictate to the claimants what the land should be used for.

So, where to from here? Mr Speaker, this Bill is enabling legislation and I am aware that there is still much to do before the settlement takes place.

The Act will be brought into force by Order in Council when the Government has approved a Pouakani governance entity as provided for under the Settlement Deed.

Corrections to past inaccurate surveys of land blocks are nearly complete. Surveys must be lodged, valuations must be carried out and property transfers must be arranged.

And I want to emphasise that this not the end of the process. Some aspects of the settlement contribute to defining the ongoing relationship between the Crown and the Pouakani people.

I refer here to the cultural redress in Part 6 of the Bill. The Statutory Acknowledgment instrument sets up a process that must be followed in the future in the resource management arena.

And the Memorandum of Understanding between the Crown and the Pouakani people outlines how the Department of Conservation and Pouakani will interact to advance common management objectives over certain areas.

So, while this settlement is a huge step towards reconciling the relationship between the Pouakani people and the Crown, we mustn’t forget to foster that relationship so it can continue to grow.

There are many other Treaty negotiations in progress. A number, as I have said, are close to success.

The settlement of historical grievances is not enough to solve all the problems which affect Maori New Zealanders. But without a settlement of these justified historical claims it is not possible to solve the problems of today.

Every Treaty settlement brings New Zealand closer to the time when we can say that the grievances of the past are behind us, that just redress has been offered and accepted and that we can move forward together.

I look forward to a positive future between the Crown and the Pouakani people.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House.

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