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Beyond Grievance: Waitangi Day Speech 2010

Beyond Grievance
Waitangi Day Speech 2010

Hon John Key

Prime Minister


Rau rangatira ma
Tenei te mihi atu ki a koutou
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou
E nga mate, haere, haere, haere


Today we come together to mark a very important day in New Zealand’s history.

On this day one hundred and seventy years ago, just kilometres from this room, our forebears came together to sign a unique and ambitious document: The Treaty of Waitangi.

Today we remember that momentous occasion as the formal coming together of two pioneering peoples, of the Maori people who first settled this land, and of the British people who sought to share it.

The document that was signed that day, its meaning and significance, have since been the subject of much debate.

Too often that debate has been characterised by extremism and by people who have sought to weaken the strong ties that unite Maori and other New Zealanders.

As we stand here in 2010 however, the genuine and mutual respect that New Zealanders have for each other has prevailed.

In our homes and communities New Zealanders of all ethnicities live and work side-by-side in pursuit of a shared set of aspirations. No matter our cultural heritage, by and large New Zealanders value hard work and education, we seek better living standards and increased opportunities for our children, and we want this to be an inclusive nation where we respect each other and where each of us has the opportunity to get ahead.

Implicit in that set of values is an acknowledgment of the legal and cultural traditions we have in common. We share a respect for the rule of law, for property rights and for a basic sense of fairness in which Jack is as good as his neighbour

In my view, that shared sense of justice is more powerful than anything that could ever be summarised in any one document.

This Waitangi Day, as we reflect on our history as a nation, I could take the opportunity to outline the many times in New Zealand where we have strayed from the path of justice, or acted in ways which call our basic sense of fairness into question.

No one in this room would deny the existence of such dark moments in our history. Indeed, we share this history with many other countries in the world where first peoples have been treated unfairly by those who have sought to share their lands.

But today is not the day to dwell on our failures. Let today be a day when we reflect on the prouder moments of our history, and on the growing unity that, for many decades, has underpinned the relationship between Maori and other New Zealanders.

This Waitangi Day I want to talk with you about the positive steps New Zealand has taken to address the injustices of our past. Specifically, I want to outline for you what this Government seeks to achieve through the Treaty Settlement process and the significance I place on it as Prime Minister.

As you know, the genesis of the settlement process can be traced back to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975.

The Tribunal was established to investigate contemporary instances where the Crown had failed to recognise Maori ownership of their lands and properties, in breach of the agreement that was signed here in Waitangi, and perhaps more importantly, in breach of the basic respect for property rights that we hold dear.

The mandate of the Tribunal was extended in 1984, so it could enquire into historical grievances.

Since the early 1990s Governments of red and blue have worked to recognise these breaches, and to negotiate settlements with the iwi which were wronged.

I believe it is to our credit as a nation that we have been prepared to confront the darker parts of our history and acknowledge the instances in which glaring injustices have occurred.

It is a credit to successive Governments and to many iwi, that redress for such injustice has been agreed to at the negotiating table, and that past mistakes have been put to bed.

Most importantly, it is a credit to New Zealand that, as a people, we share a desire to complete this redress process, so that we can move beyond grievance and towards a shared brighter future.

To my mind, that is what the Treaty settlement process is all about.

It is a process that puts into practice some of the most basic values that as parents we try to instill in our children, and that as citizens we expect from each other.

It is about acknowledging unfairness, making amends for mistakes and accepting each others’ apologies. It is also about performing what for all of us can be the hardest task of all, choosing to close the door, move on from failure, forgive each other and seek a better tomorrow.

It’s that desire for a better tomorrow that motivates this Government’s commitment to the progress and resolution of the Treaty settlement process.

We are impatient to stop looking in the rear-view mirror at grievances past, and to instead shift our eyes to the challenges of our shared future as New Zealanders.

We want to address injustice and build a platform from which Maori and other New Zealanders will stand up and confront the challenges of a new generation. Like lifting educational achievement, improving the health of our families and improving the living standards of us all.

That’s why the National Party campaigned on a goal of concluding just and durable Treaty settlements by 2014.

I think it would be a betrayal of Kiwis’ basic sense of decency to forget the past and the legitimate claims of iwi. But at the same time I am determined that New Zealand will not become stuck in that past.

I believe it is to the benefit of all New Zealanders that we move beyond the settlement phase of our history and into the brighter future we all seek.

I want to shift our focus and energy from the settling of historic claims and the sense of grievance it conjures, so that we can instead throw ourselves at the next phase in our history.

I am optimistic that next phase can be characterised by better race relations and an even more strongly united sense of our shared aspirations as New Zealanders

Today let me acknowledge that achieving this Government’s goal of concluding historic Treaty Settlements will be a considerable challenge.

When we came into office in 2008 there were 60 claims outstanding. If we were content to continue at the settlement pace of the previous Labour-led Government, then we would only expect to resolve those claims at a rate of 1.6 a year. In other words, we would still be signing settlements in 2048.

Proceeding at that rate would merely stall resolution, and strand New Zealand in an ongoing discussion of grievances past.

I won’t accept that. We must do better. The Government has the will and my sense is that iwi have the will has well.

Last year, we held two national hui with iwi to discuss ways in which Treaty settlements could be achieved more efficiently and expeditiously. They were very successful.

Iwi leaders see the experience of others who settled in the late 1990s and how much they have achieved in the intervening period. They do not want to spend time and money on litigation and negotiation; they all want to cut to the chase, achieve good settlements and move on.

Today let me assure you that this Government shares their desire to move on. Our foot is firmly on the settlement pedal.

Let me take this opportunity to briefly outline for you the steps we have taken to speed-up the resolution of historic Treaty claims.

We have re-established the Treaty of Waitangi Cabinet Committee for the first time since Jenny Shipley was Prime Minister.

I chair that Committee.

It brings together ministers to focus on settlement issues and to ensure negotiations are not allowed to stall or fester.

We have been meeting fortnightly when Parliament sits, but this year I expect we may meet even more regularly.

The Committee is supported by a team of top-notch officials whose job it is to ensure we receive the best possible advice about progressing settlements in a way that is efficient, fair and durable.

We have also provided additional resources to the Office of Treaty Settlements, which negotiates with iwi on our behalf, so it can undertake its task effectively

We don’t think it’s good enough for settlements to be stalled by an inadequate or creaky bureaucracy.

We have also brought together a high-level team of Crown negotiators to work with the Minister for Treaty Negotiations. They are a bi-partisan group and include two former Labour ministers, a former Ambassador to the United States and senior businesspeople.

Perhaps most importantly, I have appointed a Minister of Treaty Negotiations in whom I have the utmost confidence. In Chris Finlayson we have a Minister with an outstanding legal mind, years of negotiating and legal experience, and a person who shares my sense of urgency to resolve Treaty claims.

I have instructed Chris to get out there and meet iwi and to work closely with them to conclude settlements. He has been doing exactly that and has just finished an extensive hikoi visiting most of the East Coast, much of the Central North Island and the Whanganui River. He is a very busy minister, and he is getting the job done and done well.

But make no mistake, the 2014 target the Government has set for itself is ambitious. Reaching our target will require much work and goodwill from the Government, from the New Zealanders we represent, and from the iwi with whom we are negotiating.

If we are to move beyond grievance, we need all New Zealanders to be on board.

As I’ve travelled around New Zealand I sense that everyday Kiwis are ready to join us, they want the Government to rise to the challenge of moving on and they share my impatience to close the settlement chapter of our history.

However, we must ensure that our desire to move on is tempered with some caution.

I am determined that every Treaty settlement that this Government signs will be full and final.

I do not want to condemn our children and grandchildren to endlessly re-litigating these negotiations, due to sloppy work and inadequate attention to detail.

To ensure finality, the Government must work through a four-step process on the journey to settlement. It’s not easy, it’s complex work and I think it’s important you have an understanding of what it involves.

The first step is to establish clearly which representatives the Crown should negotiate with to settle a claim, through what is called a ‘deed of mandate’. We need to make sure we’re negotiating with the right people and that they have a legitimate right to the redress they are seeking.

The second step is to progress discussions to a point where terms of negotiation are signed. This is the point at which the Crown and iwi agree that we have come together in good faith and that we’re all on board for the process that will follow.

The third step is to sign agreements in principle, which set out the bare bones of a proposed settlement.

Finally, once all the detail has been worked out, we sign a binding deed of settlement that is then given full and final effect by legislation. It is a testament to New Zealand’s shared commitment to Treaty settlements that, by and large, such legislation has been supported by all parties in Parliament.

So, as I’ve outlined, moving settlements along is no easy task. But it can be done.

I’m pleased to say that the National-led Government has got off to a great start. Since the beginning of last year we recognised eight deeds of mandate, signed seven terms of negotiation, signed 12 agreements in principle and signed four final deeds of settlement.

We are determined that this momentum carries on into 2010.

This year it is likely that much of our effort will be focused on the Auckland region, where around 20 per cent of outstanding claims are centred.

It’s worth outlining some of what that may involve. Because settling historical Treaty claims by 2014 means just that - settlements have to take place.

Governments and iwi cannot just talk about settling – both sides actually have to get together and do the deals.

Several potential aspects of Treaty settlements are worthy of mention.

The first is that sometimes iwi ask for restoration of historic names. New Zealanders have nothing to fear from this. Just think of how, many years ago, Mount Egmont was renamed Egmont/Taranaki. Over time everyone has become more comfortable with the change, to the point where Taranaki is the more common name nowadays. There are other settlements where name changes have taken place and where we can envisage this happening in the future.

Sometimes iwi ask for input into how a discrete area can be looked after – be it a river, mountain, forest or similar area. In many cases the Government may deem this is reasonable, given the historical connection iwi may have with that area and the shared interest all New Zealanders have in ensuring good management or restoration of it.

In Auckland, for example, there has been some discussion over the volcanic cones or maunga.

The previous government offered the local iwi Ngati Whatua o Orakei the transfer of title and a say in the management of some of these cones.

The trouble with that approach was that other Auckland iwi had overlapping claims to the cones, meaning the issue ended up returning to the Waitangi Tribunal.

This stalled settlements in the Auckland region for three years. It’s also meant that while we‘ve been waiting for the issue to be resolved, we’ve had a situation where no new tree could be planted on One Tree Hill.

The Government has been talking through these issues with iwi over the past 12 months. We’ve made great progress. I’m pleased to say that things are now at a point where we could settle all claims in the Auckland region.

This would involve transferring the title of the volcanic cones in a way that takes account of all the iwi with legitimate interests in the cones, and that would give iwi a role in managing them, alongside the Council.

In fact, it is the same co-management model that has worked without a hitch at Orakei Basin – including the reserve and Bastion Point – since 1990 when that land was vested in local iwi.

What effect would this change have on the public? None. Public access remains the same, and that’s an important bottom line principle for this Government.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these are exciting times.

In 2010 the opportunity exists for concluding just and durable settlements throughout the Auckland region, something that a few years ago would have been regarded as a pipe dream. Iwi are keen to get on with the business, the Crown is keen, and everyone agrees that public access can never be compromised.

We all have a stake in making this happen.

When I talk to New Zealanders I find the desire to justly conclude the Treaty settlement process is widely shared.

Yes, there are extremists on both sides.

These extremists cynically damage the goodwill needed to put an end to grievance and division.

There are those who can’t see the point in all of it - who point to the 20 years we have already been working on Treaty settlements and who see no end in sight for a gravy train born out of actions from a time so long past that they bear no relevance in modern day New Zealand. Who believe the price for fairness is too high and that we should ignore past injustice. There are those who believe progress is impossible.

And then there are those who never want to see an end to the Treaty settlement process, who believe all the woes of today can be traced back to colonisation and the subsequent breaches of the Treaty. Who promote a culture of entitlement, disrespect and separatism. And those who believe the mistakes of the past 170 years entitle Maori to receive special treatment and to act outside the law. For whom division is the only objective.

I believe these extremes represent a small minority of New Zealanders.

By and large, New Zealanders are united in a desire to respect the settlement process, and to focus on the shared and equal aspirations of all Kiwis, no matter their ethnicity.

This Waitangi Day, I think we can all agree that it’s time to consign the grievance mentality to the history books.

Why can’t this be the generation of New Zealanders who open the next chapter in our history?

Let’s move the conversation on from one about past injustice, to one about how to address Maori underachievement, about how to deliver world-class education standards, and how to eradicate the deficit mentality so that every child can have the opportunity to succeed, prosper and celebrate success.

Let’s move on and acknowledge that in modern-day New Zealand, the history of colonisation and injustice can’t be allowed to dominate decision-making or be used as a crutch for supporting dependency and a lack of personal responsibility.

The desire to see Maori improve their lot in life, to be better equipped to participate and succeed in modern day life and to no longer be overrepresented in negative statistics associated with education, health and crime lies at the heart of why both the National Party and the Maori Party chose to form a government even though neither party were compelled to do so.

This won’t happen without debate, Inevitably solutions will have to be found. It will, from time to time, challenge both sides. And it won’t always be perfect. But if successful it will be worth it.

A New Zealand that makes us all proud.

A New Zealand that really delivers equality of opportunity.

A New Zealand befitting the 21st century.

So this Waitangi Day, let’s strengthen our resolve.

Let us get behind the settlement process so we can move beyond grievance, and towards the brighter future we all deserve.

Thank you.

ENDS

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