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Smith: UF key to Treaty settlements turn-around

Smith: UF key to Treaty settlements turn-around

The Government's turn-around on resolving Treaty of Waitangi grievances can to a large extent be attributed to United Future's influence, the party's treaty spokesman Murray Smith says.

Speaking in the Budget debate in Parliament last night, Mr Smith said he has consistently pushed the Government, both publicly and privately, to commit to resolving Treaty grievances by 2015, something that the Government has moved closer to with its Budget funding initiative for the Office of Treaty Settlements.

Last year, Treaty Settlements Minister Margaret Wilson avoided committing to a date, suggesting that, even if funding were available, the personnel resources would not be available and the claimants probably wouldn't be ready.

However, in response to a question from Mr Smith in Parliament last week, Ms Wilson committed to doing all that she could to ensure there was enough resourcing for the Waitangi Tribunal to complete reports on all historical claims by 2010 and to commit to having 90 percent of such claims settled by 2015.

The breakthrough was in direct response to increased funding sought by United Future for the Office of Treaty Settlements, he said.

The Budget provided the office with $895,000 a year, and an additional $320,000 in 2003/04 and $500,000 per annum thereafter for the Waitangi Tribunal.

Mr Smith said that United Future had undoubtedly had a significant impact on the Government's priorities and policy implementation, and that, in contrast to the roles of NZ First, ACT, the Greens and the Alliance in the past, United Future was making MMP work in the way New Zealanders had hoped it would.

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