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'The Nation': Tamati Kruger interviewed by Garner

Tamati Kruger Says Tuhoe Had A ‘Done Deal’ With The Government

Tuhoe Treaty Claim negotiator Tamati Kruger maintains the iwi believed they had a “done deal” with the Government over their claim to the Urewera National Park.

Speaking today on TV3’s “The Nation”, Mr Kruger said air travel arrangements was fixed, motels booked and travel arrangements had been for the Tuhoe negotiation team to travel to the signing.

There had even been a set of commemorative pens made.

Mr Kruger said Mr Key told him last Monday that he would not present the Cabinet Paper proposing the settlement to the Cabinet meeting that morning.

“He shared with me that it was his personal view that this was now a bridge too far, he thought that the public at large would still have some doubts as to whether their rights and privileges that they currently enjoy under a National Park Act, could be assured by Tuhoe ownership,” said Mr Kruger.

And Mr Kruger said Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson had never indicated in any of their talks that the Crown was not seriously considering handing over ownership of the park.

And Mr Kruger said Mr Finalyson must have briefed Mr Key over the negotiations.

“He would have been fully briefed by his own negotiation team and by the Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, and when we finally got down to the option that was before the negotiation teams and that was for the return of Te Urewera to Tuhoe ownership,” said Mr Kruger.

And Mr Kruger said that seemed clear when he Mr key in March and key described a handover of the park as complex but workable.

“ He then saw an overview of what we had covered, what we had covered, what we had considered and he asked questions about how we got to that proposal, and at the end of that discussion that was his remark, complex but workable.

“I left the meeting quite buoyed really that at least we had overcome a philosophical and ideological bump really, and then we can now get on with some detail.”


'THE NATION'

TAMATI KRUGER interviewed by DUNCAN GARNER


DUNCAN Good morning Tamati Kruger, tena koe, welcome to the programme, thanks for making time for us this morning.

I just want to ask you firstly if you look at the history of Tuhoe going back 150, 160 years, how significant or how much of a low point has this week been with John Key's decision to not allow Tuhoe to have ownership if you like of the Urewera National Park?

TAMATI KRUGER – Tuhoe Chief Negotiator

Well I think it certainly threatens to throw us back to that time of grievance and contempt and indifference, it's something that I'm certainly determined to avoid, others tell me that it's probably inevitable with the fickleness of government which has been the experience of Tuhoe.

DUNCAN So what does ownership actually mean for Tuhoe, and I want to get to Pakeha access shortly, but what is it that you were promising and pledging the Crown that you would do should you get ownership?

TAMATI The proposal that was put forward was that we would be agreeable to a five to ten year transitional period. One perhaps can call that a co-governance period, and it's during that time that the Crown and Tuhoe would give proof to all New Zealanders that their rights and privileges and access is well founded and assured, amenities, services to the park users, there would be evidence that those have been greatly enhanced, and during that time the Crown and Tuhoe would work on strengthening biodiversity values and conservation programmes in Te Urewera to lift it to an international iconic state really.

DUNCAN So Tuhoe would put its own money in, is that what you're saying, Tuhoe would have actually paid for some of the upkeep of the park?

TAMATI Tuhoe would be contributing funds during that period. At the end of that five to ten year period, if the Crown wanted to exit, then Tuhoe would take on the full financial responsibility for managing and governing Te Urewera.

DUNCAN I just want to look at that crucial meeting that you had with the Prime Minister on March 8th in his office, and it's been reported that he said ownership for you was complex but workable. Can you tell me anything more about that meeting, any commitments that the Prime Minister made to you during that meeting?

TAMATI Well we have sent out a general invitation to all Cabinet Minister to meet with us should they have any concerns and issues around the settlement proposal or the agreement in principle proposal, the Prime Minister accepted that invitation and we sat for around about 20 to 30 minutes in his office, and we went through various options that had already been considered and drafted by both negotiation teams.

DUNCAN I just want to make this clear. Did he know that he was actually talking about vesting the park into the future ownership of Tuhoe?

TAMATI He would have been fully briefed by his own negotiation team and by the Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, and when we finally got down to the option that was before the negotiation teams, and that was for the return of Te Urewera to Tuhoe ownership. He then saw an overview of what we had covered, what we had covered, what we had considered and he asked questions about how we got to that proposal, and at the end of that discussion that was his remark, complex but workable. I left the meeting quite buoyed really that at least we had overcome a philosophical and ideological bump really, and then we can now get on with some detail.

DUNCAN But you didn’t walk away from that meeting and you and your other negotiators didn’t walk away from that meeting feeling uncomfortable in any way did you, that John Key was slightly nervous about the proposal?

TAMATI Well look I take the word complex for that we have a lot more to talk about and that really was the shared view that there were politics here to deal with, but together we I think had the confidence that we could deal and manage with that quite effectively.

DUNCAN And were Crown negotiators telling you, I know you have a Tuhoe AGM not that long ago, were they telling you that Urewera National Park could be in your ownership, or were they saying look there are problems in the Beehive, I just want to see if we can get that quite clear, what were the Crown Negotiators telling you behind the scenes?

TAMATI The Crown Negotiators in all of their discussions up till last Monday, we shared the view that the details, the socalled complexities, were things that we could deal with after the Agreement in Principle, and we would work from the Agreement in Principle to the Deed of Settlement. That’s normally where all of these details and the mechanics are worked out, because you need to feed in the information from other experts and to drill down into detail. The Agreement in Principle requires a general philosophical agreement that this is possible, and that’s what we would had arrived at, was that view, complex yes, but workable.

DUNCAN And I see it's your view that you want to continue these negotiations in good faith. I want to ask you can you trust the National Party, can you indeed trust the Prime Minister that you can get to some workable solution now?

TAMATI Well one of the challenges I think of good faith bargaining is to be able to transcend the bumps along the road and the problems that one expects to occur, and I do accept that at the moment, that there are severe difficulties ahead for the Tuhoe settlement. I'm very keen and open to for further discussion, and want to understand what now is the position of the Crown and the options that they have on the table for Tuhoe. We will not be walking away from these negotiations, we will not be putting forward ultimatums, we have pledged for good faith bargaining and for the principles of negotiations and we intend to adhere to those.

DUNCAN Can I just ask you about that specific phone call that you received on Monday. I think it was about 10.20 before the Cabinet actually sat in Wellington. What did John Key actually say to you, what were his exact words to you?

TAMATI He advised me that he had decided to withdraw from the Cabinet agenda the Tuhoe Agreement in Principle draft, and so it would not be discussed at all at Cabinet that morning. He shared with me that it was his personal view that this was now a bridge too far, he thought that the public at large would still have some doubts as to whether their rights and privileges that they currently enjoy under a National Park Act, could be assured by Tuhoe ownership.

DUNCAN Did he say it was a bridge too far Tamati for himself personally, or for the National Party as a collective?

TAMATI He spoke for himself, that it was a bridge too far he thought for himself to cross, and that he felt that the public at large would not be convinced that their rights and privileges would be safe and guarded with Tuhoe ownership. I disagreed with him on that point. He then moved on to his next point that again he had come to the conclusion that this was beyond the parameters and the principles of negotiations and would be setting a precedence, and I again disagreed.

DUNCAN But the problem with that though is has the Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson, ever said that to you during this process, and you’ve likely had more to do with Chris Finlayson than with the Prime Minister. So has Mr Finlayson ever said to you that this is going to be a bridge too far for the National Party?

TAMATI No.

DUNCAN You see and that’s the problem isn't it, that why do you think this happened then, I want to know why you think it happened if Chris Finlayson hadn’t been telling you this throughout those months of negotiations.

TAMATI Well look during that conversation I immediately saw a u-turn, I was alarmed by the fact that this conversation was about losses. I saw slipping away 18 months of negotiation, so I was expressing to the Prime Minister a contrary view, but I think he – the telephone conversation was about advising me about his decision not really about seeking my opinion on the matter.

DUNCAN Has Chris Finlayson rung you since the Prime Minister' phone call to explain further?

TAMATI There has been no contact between myself or any Minister of the Crown.

DUNCAN And would you trust them to go back into a negotiation, I mean do you have enough faith in the National Party, to carry on with this deal?

TAMATI I'm charged by the Tuhoe people to use every effort and opportunity to win a fair and just settlement for Tuhoe, to cooperate in restoring the honour of the Crown to Tuhoe and to secure a settlement that’s enduring, and respects the interests of all New Zealanders. That’s my charge.

DUNCAN I just want to look at the Maori Party position here with the government. Do you think that they should remain in this coalition government, or do you think that the good faith's been broken and they should walk away?

TAMATI I have expressed to the Maori Party that I believe that they need to be concerned about the developments this week, about the integrity of the coalition, and I fear that if this is indicative behaviour and intervention on good faith bargaining, that there is also concern for iwi that are lining up to have their negotiations heard by this government.

DUNCAN I just want to ask something a bit more light-hearted if I could here. My understanding from the Beehive is that you were so far down the track that you actually had some pens made for the hui this weekend, and the signover effectively that said Waimana on it, where the hui was to take place, and AIP written on it as Agreement in Principle, I understand there were about 50 pens that were engraved and ready to be handed out. Is that correct or is it some kind of myth that I've heard from the Beehive?

TAMATI That’s correct, look air travel arrangements was fixed, motels book, travel arrangements made from Whakatane to Waimana, and there was agreement of pens, commemorative pens to be made available. Duncan this was a done deal that was intercepted and there has been an about turn.

DUNCAN Alright, Tamati Kruger, that’s a good place to leave it, thank you very much for your time this morning, we really appreciate it.

ENDS

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