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Clark: Treaty Policy Announcement

Treaty settlements policy

The policy for the pathway ahead for historical Treaty settlements.

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My announcement today is about Labour's policy for the pathway ahead for historical Treaty settlements.

Labour believes that the settlement of historical Treaty claims provides benefits to Mâori and to all New Zealand. Settlements provide iwi with a platform from which to move forward to the next phase of their development, and provide the opportunity for new future-based relationships with the Crown. In turn, that enables us to build a stronger, more confident nation together.

Labour has a long record of commitment to the Treaty settlement process. It was the Third Labour Government which first established the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975. It was then the Fourth Labour Government which in 1985 extended the Tribunal's jurisdiction back to 1840, allowing it to hear claims about and report on historical grievances, and providing the basis for the Crown and Mâori to negotiate and then settle historical claims.

The Fifth Labour-led Government has continued our commitment to settle historical claims. Since 1999, the progress we have made on Treaty settlements includes:Eight deeds of settlement signed between the Crown and iwi.Seven Settlement Acts passed into law.Four Agreements in Principle signed between the Crown and iwi.The establishment of the Claims Development Team and the Treaty Settlement Team in the Office of Treaty Settlements.Additional funding to improve research capacity, to help speed up the processes of claims development and negotiation.Involvement in discussions and negotiations with an additional 26 iwi groups.

Now the time has come to move the settlement process to another level. It is thirty years since the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal, and two decades since the Tribunal's jurisdiction was extended back to the date of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Many involved in the process over the years have expressed the hope that settling historical grievances would be achieved in their lifetime.

We believe it is important that a clear timetable now be set for completing the settlement of historical claims, so that Mâori and Pakeha can move forward together.

We know that where Treaty settlements have been concluded, the results have been very positive for iwi, their immediate regions, and for New Zealand. Mâori organisations have emerged as big economic players regionally and nationally, and this is enabling them to make significant investments in the social and cultural development of their people. For example:the $150 million Maori Fisheries settlement in 1992 had by 2004 grown into an asset valued at around $750 million. Its value to Maoridom is now being extended through the addition of a settlement covering aquaculture.The Ngai Tahu settlement has enabled that iwi to emerge as a significant economic player in the South Island with considerable assets across many sectors, including property, fisheries, and tourism.After some initial difficulties, we are now seeing benefits flowing from the Tainui Raupatu settlement. Tainui is becoming a significant economic player in the Waikato, just as Ngai Tahu has in the South Island.

To ensure that all those with historical claims have the opportunities which flow from settlement, Labour is setting a timetable for settling all claims by 2020. But in order to be able to settle all claims, all have to get into the settlement queue. For that reason, I am announcing today Labour's pledge to set a cut-off date for the lodging of historical claims - the fourth pledge on our commitment card. Our policy is to set that date at 1 September 2008. That gives just over three years from now to lodge claims.

Many New Zealanders, both Mâori and Pakeha, have expressed frustration with the time taken to complete the Treaty settlement process. The process is New Zealand's equivalent of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it has needed patience and understanding because it often reveals deep wounds from the past. In truth, the losses suffered by many whanau, hapu, and iwi as a result of Crown actions over many decades were real and considerable. They resulted from the waging of war, the confiscation of land, unfair purchases and dealings by the Crown, and the impact of the native land laws. Identifying and resolving many of the grievances has been a lengthy and complex process.

Nor do the settlements which have been achieved represent full compensation for what had been lost. But what they do represent are honest and sincere attempts to provide just redress within the context of what New Zealand can offer. For claimants, the acknowledgement of mistreatment and the associated apology by the Crown is also of great importance in the settlement package.

By committing ourselves to settling all outstanding historical claims in fifteen years time, by 2020, we can resolve issues which by then could have existed for up to 180 years. This will be healthy for our nation.

We estimate that most historical claims have already been lodged and that - once claimant groups come together - about forty to fifty settlements remain outstanding. Many of these claims are small compared to the major ones already settled. We must now move to settle them in a fair and just manner. Establishing a cut-off date and a timetable for completion of settlements will give the process new impetus, and more whanau, hapu, and iwi can look forward to the development benefits which flow from settlement.

It is important that the cut off date and the timetable are realistic, It isn't realistic to settle all claims within the next five years. Many claims are complex, and so are the mandating processes. The negotiations have to be thorough, and the ratification process has to be credible. Finally, legislation has to be passed through Parliament for each settlement.

The deadline Labour is setting for lodging claims is fair, and our timetable will enable fair and lasting settlements to be concluded. We know it takes time to do the job properly. The work our generation does now to settle these issues enables our nation to move forward together with confidence.

In the settlement process, Labour will also:Continue to negotiate and settle claims with mandated groups.Support multiple iwi settlements where possible and practicable.Keep Treaty settlement processes under review to ensure that they meet the needs of iwi and the Crown.Work on streamlining the settlement legislation process so that settlements benefit those intended without being unduly held up by the complexities of passing enabling legislation through Parliament.Work with Mâori to establish post-settlement governance entities to ensure Maori have the appropriate mechanisms in place to manage their affairs and future development to meet their goals.Support the process established by the Mâori Fisheries Act to transfer assets and quota to Mâori.Support the Treaty information programme undertaken by the State Service Commission.

Today I want to pay tribute to the efforts of those in government over the past three decades who have contributed to the Treaty settlement process. The late Matiu Rata as Minister of Mâori Affairs was instrumental in establishing the Waitangi Tribunal. David Lange's government with Koro Wetere as Minister of Mâori Affairs passed the legislation enabling the process of settling Treaty claims going back to 1840 to begin.

Under Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley, the process continued with Sir Douglas Graham playing a critical role as Minister for Treaty Negotiations. During the 1990s there was much consensus in Parliament about the importance of reconciliation and redress for past wrongs.

Today's announcement is the next step in the process. The period during which New Zealand governments have acknowledged past wrongs and redressed past injustices will be regarded well into the future as an important period in New Zealand's history, which enabled us to move forward together to build a stronger nation.

ENDS

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