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Cullen: CNI Iwi Collective Deed Signing

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Minister of Finance, Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Leader of the House

25 June 2008
Speech Notes
Embargoed until midday

Address at Central North Island Iwi Collective Deed Signing

On behalf of the Crown I welcome all of you to Parliament. I thank you all for making the journey here to Wellington. I want to acknowledge especially our older visitors today – for you it is not as easy as it once was to make the long journey to the Capital and we are honoured by your attendance.

I want to formally welcome representatives from the seven iwi who are members of the Central North Island Collective - Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Whare, Ngāti Manawa, Raukawa, and the Affiliate Te Arawa Iwi and Hapū.

It is appropriate to acknowledge that we had originally hoped to have an eighth iwi represented here today, Ngati Rangitihi. I know the members of the collective share the Crown’s hope that Rangitihi will be able to resolve their differences and share in the benefits of this settlement.

At the outset I would like to express my deep appreciation to two people who have played such an important role in getting us here today. First to Dr Tumu te Heuheu, Te Ariki of Ngati Tuwharetoa, who first approached the government about the prospect of a collective agreement late last year. We are here today because of your leadership.

Secondly, to Wira Gardiner who has acted as Crown Facilitator throughout the negotiation process.

I am personally indebted to you and I thank you for your huge contribution to getting us to this point.

I also want to acknowledge that the issues surrounding Central North Island forestry assets are long-running ones. Over the years so many have contributed their energy and efforts to resolving these issues and a number are no longer with us. We are indebted to those who have come before.

We are here today to celebrate a significant milestone in the history of Central North Island iwi. The signing of this Deed of Settlement is a major achievement, and one that is a tribute to the hard work, determination, and patience of the iwi represented here.

And while it is first and foremost an achievement that will benefit your people and your region, it is one that all New Zealanders will share in.

Over 160 years ago, Maori and the Crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi. In so doing, they were enshrining – perhaps more in pragmatism than with historic purpose – principles of respect and partnership, of understanding and tolerance in the fibre of our nationhood.

The values that advocates of the Treaty promoted were the same values that in decades to come would establish New Zealand’s standing at the vanguard of social democracy; the values of fairness and equality, of mutual recognition and security.

In the Treaty’s words lived the potential to disavow colonialism as previously known, with its dire consequences for native peoples around the world. The parties to the Treaty had an opportunity to show that with good will, it was possible for new settlers and indigenous people to gain and learn from each other.

But almost immediately, that opportunity slipped away. In the end, our colonial experience was classic, not unique; the mistakes of other nations that we had the chance to avoid, we instead repeated.

It is a tragedy of our history that in the century and a half that followed the signing of the Treaty, the Crown failed to uphold its part of the bargain in so many ways. We failed to deliver on our obligations of partnership and respect. We failed to deliver full equality for Maori and we failed to protect the rights of Maori – both their basic human rights and their rights of property.

The consequences of this failure are great and they are multiple. New Zealand is a lesser nation today as a result of the Crown’s failure to uphold its obligations to so many generations of Maori.

But all has not been lost.

Through the Treaty Claims and Settlement process, we have in recent decades sought to address our historic failure and strive once again to live up to the ideals of the Treaty. We have sought to acknowledge the injustices past, and sought to build new and shared ambitions for New Zealand’s future and New Zealand’s people. We have shown that the Treaty of Waitangi is indeed a living document.

In doing so, Maoridom and the Crown are now world leaders in the development of a unique, detailed, and deliberative process of reconciliation and redress.

And today, with the signing of this Deed of Settlement, we are taking the largest single step forward in that process of reconciliation to date.

When I became the Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations last year, I was genuinely moved by the outpouring of good will from iwi around New Zealand. There was a real sense that for a number of iwi – from Northland to the Bay of Plenty to Wellington and Wairarapa, to the top of the South Island, and yes, the Central North Island – that real progress could be made by working together.

In the months since significant progress – borne of hard work, good will, and plenty of patient pragmatism – has been made. But nowhere has the progress been as quick, as comprehensive, and as innovative as that driven by the Central North Island Collective.

From informal approaches late last year, to the signing of Terms of Negotiation just four months ago, to hui around New Zealand, to the signing of this Deed today, the pace of this process has been a surprise to some.

But we all know that this appearance of speed is really just an illusion. It is an illusion not just because the injustices leading to the claims we are settling today are generations old.

It is an illusion not just because the Crown and iwi have been trying to achieve this settlement for the better part of two decades.

It is an illusion not just because rentals have been accumulating in the Crown Forestry Rental Trust for almost two decades.

The fact is that it has been a very long road to get where we are today. Today’s milestone may seem sudden for some and may not have been anticipated by many of us just one year ago. But for those of you who have been working for this resolution for so long, today could not have come soon enough.

For now, with the signing of this Deed and the subsequent passage and assent of the associated legislation, the iwi represented in the collective will finally have a real opportunity to realise their full economic potential. With the transfer of the majority of the forests held by the Crown in the region to the seven iwi represented in the collective, a nearly half-billion dollar asset base will finally be utilised in the interest of local Maori.

This is the biggest single Treaty settlement in dollar terms, in terms of the number of people – over 100,000 individuals are covered by the deal – and in terms of the amount of land – some 170,000 hectares – that is being transferred.

But it is not just in size that this settlement is unique. The settlement is unique in its innovative, iwi-initiated, iwi-led process.

It is the iwi themselves that have proposed an acceptable settlement, iwi themselves that have worked together to solve issues around over-lapping claims, and iwi themselves who drove one of the most detailed and comprehensive consultation programmes we have seen in the settlement process to date.

As Minister for this portfolio I regularly ask how the benefits of settlements can be delivered more quickly to the claimant iwi.

One of the major impediments to speed has been the issue of overlapping or cross claims for commercial and cultural redress.

Often on the Crown side we found ourselves managing claims processes with one eye (and sometimes both eyes) on legal or other challenges. This slowed the process, distorted the nature of settlement packages and delayed the resolution of longstanding grievances for all.

Our experience with the Central North Island forests proves that this does not have to be the case.

That experience will I am sure lead to a series of initiatives that allows the settlements process to deliver results for claimants and the wider New Zealand community more quickly than has been the case.

Let me be clear here that we will never move with unnecessary haste and we will never seek to rush progress. But it is clear, I believe to Maori and Pakeha alike, that we must take our process of reconciliation seriously, and that we all stand to gain hugely from its successful and timely conclusion.

In closing I would like to reflect on the historic nature of today’s signing. Today is a day none of us will soon forget.

We will not forget the work of the past months to get us to this point. We will not forget the overwhelming attendance at this event today and we will not forget the pride we feel when we see the settlement legislation pass through Parliament, I hope with broad political support.

But the truth is that it is not with the signing of this Deed today that history is being made. Nor will it be with the passing of the settlement legislation by Parliament or with its Royal Assent by the Governor General.

History will be made when the iwi represented here today return home with renewed purpose and pride in the achievements of your people.

History will be made when your iwi take control of your forestry asset and start increasing your investments in your economic and social progress.

History will be made when the fruits of this settlement flow through to your young people; when those young people see their opportunities expand in front of them; when they see their aspirations lifted; when, because of this settlement, future generations of your people are truly able to live up to their full potential.

History will be made when as a result of our settlement process, all New Zealanders – Maori, Pakeha, new migrants, and long residents – are able to move forward together, having acknowledged the mistakes of the past, and having developed shared ambitions for our nation’s future.

I am honoured to have been a part of this process and I am honoured to put my signature on this Deed on behalf of the Crown today.


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