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Waitangi Tribunal Report Released on Port Nicholson Block

Waitangi Tribunal Report Released on the Port Nicholson Block Urgency Inquiry

2pm, Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Waitangi Tribunal has today released a pre-publication version of its report on the Port Nicholson block urgency inquiry. The Tribunal is releasing its report at this time in order to minimise disruption to the settlement process of Ngāti Toa Rangatira (Ngāti Toa), who are expected to initial their deed of settlement with the Crown in the near future.

The claimants in this inquiry are the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, which represents Taranaki Whānui interests in the Wellington region. In the course of negotiations to settle their historical claims with the Crown, Taranaki Whānui agreed to release the Wellington Central Police Station from their proposed settlement package. This enabled the Crown to offer the police station as commercial redress to Ngāti Toa, who were simultaneously engaged in separate settlement negotiations with the Crown. The historical claims of Taranaki Whānui were subsequently settled by the Port Nicholson Block (Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika) Claims Settlement Act 2009.

The claimants alleged that, in return for the release of the police station, the Crown committed itself to recognise and uphold the ‘mana whenua of Taranaki Whānui over the Port Nicholson block’ by not offering any other commercial redress in the block to Ngāti Toa. Taranaki Whānui claimed that the Crown broke this undertaking by proposing to offer substantial redress to Ngāti Toa throughout the block.

The Tribunal heard evidence from the claimants, the Crown, and Ngāti Toa in June 2012. The inquiry panel comprised Judge Stephen Clark (presiding officer), the Honourable Sir Douglas Kidd, Basil Morrison, and Sir Tamati Reedy.

The Tribunal has not upheld the claim of Taranaki Whānui. However, it has found that the Crown, in exchange for the release of the Wellington Central Police Station, gave Taranaki Whānui undertakings not to offer Ngāti Toa any cultural redress and no further commercial redress within the Wellington CBD.

The Tribunal has found that the Crown broke those undertakings. The Crown offered Ngāti Toa a plaque at Parliament as cultural redress and a right of first refusal (RFR) over Crown properties and New Zealand Transport Agency administered properties in Wellington City, potentially including the Wellington CBD, as commercial redress. In so acting, the Crown breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

In relation to the offer of cultural redress, the Tribunal stopped short of making a recommendation since Taranaki Whānui knew before signing their deed of settlement that there was an offer of cultural redress in the Wellington CBD to Ngāti Toa. The offer of a plaque at Parliament had also been withdrawn.

In relation to the offer of commercial redress, the Tribunal recommends that the Crown review its RFR offer to Ngāti Toa and, if necessary, amend that offer to ensure that no commercial properties are made available via the RFR mechanism to Ngāti Toa within the Wellington CBD. The Tribunal further recommends that, if as a result of implementing those recommendations, the commercial redress package currently on offer to Ngāti Toa is in any way diminished, the Crown should identify and offer alternative substitute commercial redress for Ngāti Toa.

The report also points to flaws in Crown negotiation processes of the time, including the use of the ‘silo’ approach (whereby communication between different teams of Crown negotiators was minimal) and a lack of clarity in the language that Crown officials used. In the Tribunal’s view, both have led to confusion and have potentially created new grievances in the Port Nicholson block.

The Port Nicholson Block Urgency Report: Pre-publication Version is available at www.waitangitribunal.govt.nz.

ENDS

Scoop copy: Waitangi Tribunal: The Port Nicholson Block Urgency Report [PDF]

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