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What happens if Labour's Treaty deadline isn't met

4 August 2005

What happens if Labour's Treaty deadline isn't met?

A deadline for the lodging of Treaty settlements could have worrying consequences for New Zealand's race relations, the Green Party is warning.

"I'm very concerned about what might happen if Labour's 2008 deadline is not met and some historical wrongs are allowed to permanently fester," Green Treaty and Constitutional Issues Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.

"The Crown has ample research capacity so it will find it easy to meet this deadline, but many hapu and iwi preparing claims have very few resources.

"If these groups are unable to prepare their claims in time for the 2008 deadline, what will happen? Is Labour prepared to allow outstanding confiscated land to remain under Crown control and for the wrongful taking of land to remain a permanent feature of the New Zealand political landscape?"

Nandor says that at current funding levels for the resolution process Labour's aim that all Treaty claims be settled by 2020 is simply not credible.

"If the Government is serious about working towards a goal of all Treaty settlements completed by 2020 then it is going to need to put its money where its mouth is. The Waitangi Tribunal currently has hundreds of claims before it, yet only about three are being settled per year. The fair and timely resolution of claims will benefit all New Zealanders, but unless the Government significantly increases the funding available to the Waitangi Tribunal and the Office of Treaty Settlements, then this 2020 goal is simply pie-in-the-sky stuff."

Nandor says the current Treaty settlement process remains unfair and setting deadlines would only exacerbate the situation.

"The current settlement process was unilaterally developed by the Crown and is a 'take-it-or-leave-it' offer. Maori groups who feel the framework of negotiation is unfair thus have two possible courses of action: like it, or lump it. Setting a deadline only further disadvantages claimants, giving the Crown even more ascendancy on what it already a patently unlevel playing field.

"It's also important to point out that the end of Treaty settlements won't mean an end to the Treaty.

"The Treaty is not about land claims, but about an ongoing relationship between Maori and the Crown. Even once all Treaty settlements are made, there will also be an ongoing role for the Crown to implement the deeds of the Treaty and uphold the relationships that are formed within them."

ENDS

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