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Flavell: The Budget; The Treaty and Reconciliation

Budget Debate:
Te Ururoa Flavell; Treaty Spokesperson for the Maori Party
Wednesday 23 May 2007; 8.20pm

The Maori Party came to the Government’s annual financial statement with two basic principles in mind, Madam Speaker.

The first would be that the Budget would promote fairly, the development of each of the cultures of the two parties to the Treaty.

The second was that the preparation, approval and management of the Budget would be the responsibility of both parties.

Madam Speaker, during the course of the Budget debate, my colleagues, Dr Sharples and Hone Harawira, have shown the management of the state resources has been far from equitable.

They have described the various ways in which the Crown has failed, miserably, in fulfilling the guarantees anticipated in Article Three of the Treaty.

And I want to conclude our contribution by focusing on the Treaty as the very basis of our constitution; and how far this Budget goes in delivering on that expectation.

The Budget summary looked really promising actually– promoting, again, the concept of Reconciliation.

The promise that "reconciliation at home between Maori and Crown matters” was introduced earlier this year in the Prime Minister’s Statement.

We know that the use of new Government terminology is word-crafted and spun to perfection before release; and so the placement of this concept in the Budget must also be understood as being fairly deliberate.

And so we in the Maori Party pondered on the concept of reconciliation as code for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa; which addressed the worst ravages of the war of apartheid.

In Australia, the Truth-telling nature of Reconciliation is known as the Sorry Business. They have passed a Council for National Reconciliation Act to promote a deeper understanding of the past dispossession and continuing disadvantage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. An independent entity, Reconciliation Australia, has also been established.

And just over a year ago, the Liberian government established and staffed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to establish forums throughout the country for victims and perpetrators of war.

Madam Speaker, we were wondering what was the Prime Minister thinking, and her Finance Minister forecasting, when reconciliation was introduced in the 2007 budget?

I came across a report from Freetown, Sierre Leone, gives a clear expectation of what reconciliation could involve when it said;

“Reconciliation is a long-term process that must occur at national, community, and individual levels. Being a process, it will take time and will need to continue even beyond the present generation. Reconciliation aims at restoring the social fabric within families, communities and the nation”.

And so, finally, we thought that this Government might be looking again at the sorry state of affairs managed in the Treaty settlement negotiations processes.

We thought it might reconsider the rationale for the Crown, itself, chairing negotiations – rather than establishing an independent body to ensure both parties participate in good faith.

Professor Mason Durie, describes this process as assuming a dominance which far from endorses the principles of the Treaty. He said, and I quote:

“Leaving aside the justice of the claims and the fact that settlement is well overdue, the settlement process depends on the retention of adversarial bargaining rather than moving towards managed cooperation and co-existence.

In other words, the elements of the colonial relationship are maintained, the Crown decides on the merits of the claim and makes an offer of restitution, though within a framework which the Crown itself has imposed”.

So Madam Speaker, with the key fiscal aggregates for 2007/8 showing some $76.9 billion in revenues; and an operating balance of $6.4 billion, one would have thought that ‘Reconciliation’ might have equated to meaningful revenue and resourcing.

We thought that the Crown might consider leaving aside the colonial relationship, and instead moving towards managed co-operation and co-existence, reconciliation and healing.

But oh no, and here’s the thing. What this minority Government really meant by Reconciliation, is actually just treading water, more of the same, maintaining the status quo.

So they gave the Office of Treaty Settlements a $900,000 boost to buy some more policy analysts; and less than $2m a year to the Waitangi Tribunal.

But if you drill further into the fine print, we can find the amount set aside for landbanks is capped at an all out total of ten million dollars; and the total it expects to spend on settlements is capped at sixty million dollars.

Ten million dollars would not be enough to buy up the controversial Landcorp block of Whenuakite Station to return it to Hauraki iwi; let alone any others.

Ever since 1986, the Waitangi Tribunal has been able to order that land kept in the context of state owned enterprise, must be transferred to Maori to settle Treaty claims.

Ten million dollars wouldn’t however, afford the Crown any opportunity to purchase the Rangiputa Block to be returned to Ngati Kahu; or indeed to reverse the sale by Landcorp of 1.8 million Fonterra shares, worth $11.7 million, from the Ngātea farm, prior to any consideration of its being set aside for the Hauraki Treaty settlements.

As for the $60 million, well if we take the Minister’s word, we know that the Crown is currently working with over twenty groups, all dealing with multiple claims.

And if we consider further the approach taken in the Tamaki Makaurau settlement inquiry; in the Kaingaroa inquiry, and in the Te Arawa settlement, the Crown’s failure to disclose information or to engage might end up incurring costs outside of what might be covered in the $60m.

Judge Carrie Wainwright’s findings on the 8th May, provided a stern accusation levelled at the Crown that their provision of documents and evidence central to the Tamaki Makaurau inquiry was unsatisfactory; and that the stance of Crown Law Office was unfortunate.

Well Madam Speaker, this is not Reconciliation.

These events put a stop to any hope of a Treaty partnership; they give us no hope of ever forging a nation unified by the promise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

You see true Reconciliation, would not just have satisfied itself with some funding for policy analysts.

Reconciliation approaches might have considered the proposal of the Maori Party that a minimum quantum will be expected for each settlement.

We believe that for restoration and rebuilding of nationhood, all claimants must be guaranteed a basic level of resource to ensure that opportunity for development is not compromised.

Claimant funding needs to be reviewed and increased so that all parties to the settlement process are on a level playing field.

Madam Speaker, another aspect of the Reconciliation project would have been to have done as Professor Mason Durie suggested in the establishment of an Independent Settlements Authority.

Such an authority would turn over every stone to ensure that the claims will be settled earlier; be settled fairly and that there is a broad consensus for the process and therefore greater commitment to settlement resolution.

Reconciliation would have also been likely if the Crown was to drop the fiscal cap on the Treaty settlement putea in the first place.

Madam Speaker, ten days ago, the Maori Party released our six-pronged Treaty budget package. We were really pleased that one of the six ideals – the commitment to more resourcing for the Waitangi Tribunal was followed through on, so that they can deal with claims more speedily.

But there were other elements of our package that could also have provided some useful context for relationship repair and maintenance.

One is the commitment to buy-out the relativity clause; a type of 'top-up' mechanism that will be used to supplement settlement funding in the Tainui and Ngai Tahu settlements.

The other is to give consideration to joint ventures with State owned enterprises along with other possible innovative approaches to respond to settlement priorities.

We were interested in a comment made by Law Commissioner, Denese Henare, who concluded, and I quote:

The Treaty is far from being a fossilised document. It is a beacon for the future…. An embryo of principles, values and ideas to be worked out, developed and adjusted over time”.

Well Madam Speaker, Budget 2007 does little to promote the concept of the Treaty as a beacon for the future. The fiscal constraints of such a rigid lack of imagination, will produce results that are stuck in time.

The Government in limiting itself to a fraction of the revenue required, has shown itself to be paralysed by minimalist views and power; rather than committing to principles of justice, nationhood and reconciliation.


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