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Cross-claimants are covered

Cross-claimants are covered

The Crown is disappointed the Tuhoe-Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board has threatened to file court proceedings aiming to delay the signing of the Deed of Settlement with another Bay of Plenty iwi, Ngati Awa.

The Trust Board challenged the Ngati Awa settlement before both the Waitangi Tribunal and the High Court last year, but their arguments were unsuccessful.

The Trust Board has appealed the High Court decision, and this hearing is scheduled to take place in early May.

The Crown and Ngati Awa have worked to expressly protect the Trust Board’s interests by agreeing, in a Supplementary Deed, that the signing of the Deed of Settlement is conditional on the outcome of the appeal.

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Margaret Wilson, said dealing with cross claims and competing interests when settling historical grievances was complex, but manageable. Trust and good faith negotiations were vital if forestry settlements were to move forward, though hiccups along the way were not unexpected.

“When overlapping claimants also have interests in the region, the Crown makes sure it retains the capacity to offer appropriate redress to them in their own settlements,” Margaret Wilson said.

The Government is hopeful that, in future, cross-claim litigation will be reduced by the regional approach now being taken by the Waitangi Tribunal, which encourages historical claims in a district to be dealt with contemporaneously.

In this particular region, the Crown has listened to the Trust Board’s concerns and acted in good faith to ensure their views were taken into account before the Ngati Awa draft Deed of Settlement was initialled last July.

This included the Crown and Ngati Awa previously agreeing to withdraw a large amount of forest land from the Ngati Awa settlement to ensure that the Crown could make fair offers to cross-claimants in the future, if appropriate.

The Trust Board has sought to have the settlement halted on a number of grounds, principally that they have greater interests in some of the redress offered to Ngati Awa by the Crown.

On balance, however, the proceedings by the Trust Board have not justified delaying the signing of the Deed of Settlement with Ngati Awa.

If the Trust Board is successful in the Court of Appeal, there is provision for the Crown and Ngati Awa to renegotiate redress. The Supplementary Deed protects any rights arising from the appeal.

There is also ample time for issues to be resolved. Before the settlement with Ngati Awa becomes final, the iwi must complete the development of a governance entity to receive and manage the settlement assets, and that entity must be approved by iwi membership and the Crown. Legislation must then be passed to enact the settlement.

Margaret Wilson said she hoped the latest court action can be resolved quickly and that all parties could move forward.

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