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Initiatives to streamline Treaty settlement

Tuesday, February 19 2002 Media Statement

Further government initiatives to streamline Treaty settlement process

The Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Hon Margaret Wilson today announced details of additional government funding to help streamline the process for settlement of historical Treaty claims.

Margaret Wilson said an annual contribution of $450,000 will fund a new Claims Development Team at the Office of Treaty Settlements.

“The three person team will work with claimant groups at the early stages of the negotiations process, in Tribunal hearings or working on representation and mandate issues. It will also play an important liaison role with the Waitangi Tribunal and the Crown Forestry Rental Trust.”

Margaret Wilson said $1.2 million has also gone to the Land Bank which holds surplus Crown land for use in future settlements.

“The money will enable the Crown to maintain the properties to a reasonable standard so as to provide attractive redress options for claimants.”

Margaret Wilson said the new claims development team is the latest in a number of government initiatives designed to make the claims process more efficient, while maintaining the broad principles established by the government in June 2000 for the settlement of historical Treaty claims.

“It means when the settlements currently in negotiation are completed, resources will be devoted to the next claimant groups ready to move forward.”

Other initiatives by this government for streamlining the process include a system for prioritising claims, which sees claimant groups with the best prospects of achieving settlement in the near future given first call on resources, and an adjustment of the settlement process so that the detailed and expensive Heads of Agreement, which is a non binding document, is no longer required, Margaret Wilson said.

"In the past, the Heads of Agreement stage has absorbed considerable time and resources of both the Crown and claimants, with debatable overall benefit. Instead, a more general agreement in principle can form the basis for moving directly to a Deed of Settlement."

Margaret Wilson acknowledges the work of the previous government in achieving the first settlements with Waikato-Tainui and Ngai Tahu, and said it has been an important part of the learning experience, both in demonstrating positive outcomes of achieving settlements, and in showing what pitfalls to avoid in future negotiations.

“This government has now overseen the completion of several settlements, and there are many others moving through the stages at their own pace. We know what can hold things up and what can move things forward."

ENDS

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