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Cullen: CNI Forests Collective Settlement Bill

Michael Cullen

25 September, 2008
Central North Island Forests Land Collective Settlement Bill Third Reading

Speech notes

Madam Speaker, I move that the Central North Island Forests Land Collective Settlement Bill be now read a third time.

Greetings to the CNI iwi Collective

It is remarkable to me that today we have arrived at the Third Reading of this Bill, which embodies an historic journey and settlement. Any Third Reading is a moment of great significance in the passage of any bill before it assumes its place in statute.

As I have done before on this journey, and as I do again today, I acknowledge the iwi of the Collective who have done so much to make today a reality.

Above all, I acknowledge the leadership and initiative of Te Ariki Dr Tumu te Heuheu. His leadership in helping some of the CNI iwi to author an innovative and collective response to settling the historical Treaty claims of the Collective over the CNI forests land cannot be over estimated.

I also thank each of the iwi of the Collective for their own leadership, innovation, and above all, noble desire to work together and breathe new life into their relationships with one another; new life that is conceived in good will and a shared hope for the future.

I therefore honour each of you in turn: Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Manawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Whare, Raukawa, and the Affiliate Te Arawa iwi/hapu. I stand firm in my conviction that your children, and the generations that follow them, will honour your work in this settlement and bill, as I honour you today.

The recent journey of the Collective iwi to settle their historical claims over the CNI forests land with the Crown has not always been a united one. The CNI forests land constitutes an asset of significant cultural and commercial value to a variety of iwi; iwi, however, whose collective cultural, historical, and spiritual interests are complex, fluid, and overlapping.
These forest lands have thus been a source of past division among the CNI iwi, and indeed these iwi and the Crown.

The division among both the CNI iwi themselves, and these iwi and the Crown reached a low ebb through 2006 and 2007 over the proposed transfer of some of these lands to the Affiliate Te Arawa iwi/hapu.

In 2006, the New Zealand Maori Council, Federation of Maori Authorities, and others raised concerns about this redress through litigation in the High Court and Court of Appeal. In 2007, the Waitangi Tribunal held an urgent inquiry into the impacts of the Crown’s forest lands settlement policy on the Te Arawa waka and other CNI iwi.

However, out of this disunity came unity. The Crown and the iwi of the Collective heard the call of the Tribunal, who recommended that the CNI iwi create a forum that would enable these iwi to determine among themselves the principles and other guidelines that would help determine how the CNI forests land should be allocated.

What has followed is a settlement embodied in this Bill that has been led and constructed by a committed iwi Collective, and at whose heart lies a tikanga-based process to allocate the CNI forests land. Above all, a settlement that gifts the iwi of the collective the opportunity for long sought economic and social independence.

All historical Treaty claims must be settled on the bedrocks of durability, good faith, finality, and fairness. Such claims must, however, also be settled with a clear end in view.

A time will and must come when the Crown and Maori live as partners under the Treaty, not as those restoring a broken past, but moving forward together into a healed future. It is for these reasons that the government seeks to settle all historical Treaty claims by 2020. This target is realistic.

The Bill before us sets out a settlement that contains two elements that will be vital to achieving this end; each element being embodied by the unique way the Collective and the Crown have found themselves playing their own roles:

• The Collective, as the claimant group, have authored a proposed settlement that they put before the Crown

• The Crown has worked with the Collective to develop their proposal by adopting a flexible approach in applying its existing policy frameworks. Put differently, the Crown has sought to achieve a settlement that although not wholly consistent with its existing settlement processes, remains fundamentally consistent with its key policy principles of durability, good faith, finality, and fairness.

Thus, for all historical Treaty claims to be settled by 2020, future claimant groups need to continue to show the united leadership and initiative approach of the Collective, and the Crown must continue to be responsive and adaptable to this initiative.

I stress, however, that the presence of responsiveness and adaption does not mean the absence of durability, good faith, finality, and fairness.

This settlement has also provided another lesson for the future of the Treaty settlement process. This government has recently sought a regional, rather than large natural grouping approach to negotiations.
The Crown is seeking more and more to negotiate with multiple groups in a common geographical area, where possible.

This settlement shows that a regional approach can work. More importantly, this approach constitutes a viable strategy that will enable the Crown and all Maori to work together in settling all historical Treaty claims, in a durable, full, final, and fair manner, by 2020.

I have noted before the significant economic opportunities that this settlement will provide for the iwi of the Collective.

These economic opportunities, however, have birthed the further opportunity for the Crown and iwi of the collective to work together to develop them, as treaty partners in a healed and restored relationship.

The development of these opportunities will in time give new economic and social independence to the people of the Collective iwi, an economic and social independence denied to past generations that will not be denied to future ones.

At its deepest level, this settlement is not therefore most about restoring mana whenua, as important as this is, but the mana of the parties themselves to this settlement. To this end, the settlement, as with all settlements, embodies and echoes the deep principle of tikanga:

“He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata”


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