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Waitangi Tribunal vindicates Wellington claim challenge

Waitangi Tribunal vindicates Wellington claim challenge

Media Statement 2 August 2012

Members of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST), who sought an urgent hearing of the Waitangi Tribunal over the behaviour of the Crown in regard to their treaty settlement, have welcomed the release of The Port Nicholson Block Urgency Report.

A group of trust members sought the hearing claiming that the Crown had breached agreements made as part of the process of settling the historic claims of Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o te Ika.

While the report does not find in the claimants favour on all matters, it has unequivocally found that the Crown:

• breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi

• failed to act reasonably and in good faith

• misled claimants when it breached the undertakings given

• failed to actively protect the interests of Taranaki Whanui; and

• in so doing caused prejudice to Taranaki Whanui

The Tribunal has recommended that the Crown now renegotiate all commercial offerings which were being offered to another iwi in the Wellington CBD.

PNBST Chairman Professor Sir Ngatata Love said they acknowledge that the tribunal didn’t find in their favour in all matters.

“However, we do feel vindicated by the report’s findings and that we were justified in taking the claim.

“We have noted that the Tribunal ‘strongly sympathised’ with our frustrations and what led us to seeking their intervention,” he said.

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The Tribunal found that in May 2008 when Taranaki Whanui were negotiating their settlement package they entered into an agreement with the Crown to release the Wellington Central Police Station so that it could become part of the Ngati Toa settlement package.

The police station had a value of between $30-41 million. The Tribunal acknowledged that this was a very generous concession by Taranaki Whanui.

Within four months of the Crown having settled with Taranaki Whanui it began breaching its undertaking to them by offering further properties to Ngati Toa in the Wellington CBD.

“We were always adamant that concession was made on an undertaking from the Crown that it would be the only property offered to Ngati Toa in the Taranaki Whanui area of exclusive interest,” Professor Love said.

The Tribunal also found that despite requests by claimants for the Crown to revisit its negotiations with Ngati Toa and honour the undertaking given to them the Crown refused, and pushed ahead with

the Ngati Toa negotiations. Taranaki Whanui had no other option than to seek an urgent hearing to force the Crown to honour the undertaking it had given to Taranaki Whanui.

Professor Love said the whole process of trying to deal with the Crown on these matters has been extremely disappointing and frustrating.

“Even when we got to the Waitangi Tribunal, the Crown was trying to frustrate the process by contesting every point.

“We were even forced to prove that the Tribunal had jurisdiction to hear the claim. The Crown’s position was that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction because Taranaki Whanui had a full and final settlement supported by a settlement statute and a Deed of Settlement,” Professor Love said.

The Tribunal pointed to a clause in the Deed of Settlement which stated that the Deed of Settlement does not supersede the Treaty of Waitangi. The Tribunal then felt compelled to remind the Crown that neither party can contract out of the Treaty and the obligations that flow from it.

The Tribunal found that the undertaking given was for both the present and the future.

Professor Love said they are disappointed that the Tribunal did not also include the “two mile line” around Wellington Harbour as part of the undertaking, when finding in their favour: “We are reviewing their position and seeking further legal advice on this point.”

Professor Love said they also noted that throughout the report the Tribunal refer to the Tamaki Makaurau Settlement Process Report released in 2007.

“We think the Tribunal sums up the situation well when it expressed its disappointment in having to raise the need for the Crown to avoid creating new grievances through its settlement,” he said.

The Tribunal concluded with the following statement from the Tamaki Makaurau report:

The burden on both Maori and Pakeha of the great wrongs that were done in the past will not be lifted if the process of settling creates new wrongs”

“We agree,” Professor Love said.

In concluding, Taranaki Whanui continue to fully support Ngati Toa receiving a fair and just Treaty settlement with the Crown.


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