The National Government likes to point to the number of Treaty settlements it has arranged in the course of the John Key reign. But, as much as it would welcome a Ngāpuhi deal, that’s not securely on schedule.
It’s 20 years since Jim Bolger, who was the Prime Minister in those days, and Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu both put pen to paper on the Waikato Raupatu Deed of Settlement.
While that iwi has had some dodgy moments over the years, it has gone on to huge success – taking its balance sheet from $170 million to over $1 billion. So Waikato-Tainui deserves to celebrate.
It’s fitting then (perhaps) that the Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, chose May 22, the day of the Tainui signing anniversary, to announce that the Crown and Ngāpuhi have signed Terms of Negotiations.
Tainui was the first of the major Treaty settlements. If the Ngāpuhi settlement is successful (and that’s a big IF), then it is likely to be the largest, and one of the last, Treaty deals relating to historical wrongs.
The Minister was open in wanting to push ahead with negotiations despite a Waitangi Tribunal hearing where the mandate of Tūhoronuku to represent Ngāpuhi is being challenged. (There are a number of Ngāpuhi hapu who don’t recognise Tūhoronuku IMA as the appropriate "independent mandated authority.")
The minister says the Tribunal’s decision (which isn’t yet known) won’t get in the way. His focus is on the potential opportunities, social and economic, for all Ngāpuhi, and Northland, through a settlement.
So what’s the rush? Well, Northland is a thorn in the Government’s side. The region needs an economic boost. The local population is predominantly Māori. So wouldn’t it be great if iwi could play a leading role in turning things around.
But what else? National has already missed its self-imposed deadline of 2014 for ending all historical claims. And its momentum on settlements has noticeably slowed over the past year.
While the Government won’t ever confirm or validate this kōrero, the kumara vine is in overdrive. The talk is, once Ngāpuhi has settled, all the remaining historical claims will be bundled together under a cap. For those iwi who’ve been left behind and who haven’t yet entered negotiations, the clock would be ticking pretty fast.
National has two years before the next election. Completing an agreement with Ngāpuhi and ending the Treaty settlement process would be a huge win for the Nats. Not surprising then that the Minister has labelled these negotiations “Urgent”.
Disclaimer: Scott is a consultant to several Pre and Post-Settlement iwi entities.