Finlayson on Treaty settlements

A must read article by Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finalyson in the Herald:

Treaty settlements are not about one group of people being unequal under the law. This country has one law for all – the Treaty guaranteed that. The settlements process is about recognising those instances – regrettably common – where the Crown did not treat all the people of New Zealand equally – where people in New Zealand under the Crown’s protection were stripped of land they owned, or deprived of the right to be treated fairly, despite its undertaking to stop that from happening.

And an example:

Anyone who thinks the Treaty settlement process is about securing privileges for Maori need only familiarise themselves with the recent Waitangi Tribunal report on the history of the Urewera region. It does not make pleasant reading.

It presents the detailed history of the Urewera region for the first time. The tribunal describes the Crown’s confiscation of 24,280ha of Tuhoe land on its first real contact with that tribe.

It details the attacks on the tribe in the Bay of Plenty to apprehend Te Kooti – raids that started as justified military action, but led to the intentional slaughter of civilians and prisoners, and were described by one senior military officer at the time as “extermination”.

Tame Iti may be an attention seeking idiot, but Tuhoe do have some legitimate grievances.

Within days of signing the Treaty in 1840, the Crown bought 1214ha of downtown Auckland for 281.

Within six months it resold just 36ha of that for 24,500. It is pointless to feel guilt about this. For one thing, none of us alive today was responsible for what happened then. However, those who hold the levers of power in the Crown must take action to redress these wrongs, because it was the Crown that caused these grievances.

So purchase price was 23c (converting to dollars) a hectare and sale price six months later was $681 a hectare.

We cannot give back all that was taken, and to their credit no claimants have demanded that the Crown do so. The cost of settlements is around 5 per cent of the value of what iwi lost. According to some estimates, it is much less.

There is no way of knowing what the real figure is, and it does not matter. The Treaty settlement process is as much about recognition and healing as it is about recompense.

Sir Douglas Graham often made the same point.

It’s why other parts of settlements – like restoring traditional names, or co-management of culturally significant land with the Government – may not have any monetary value. They are important to iwi and the way they relate to the country.

Yep.

Treaty settlements are good for the whole country. There has been much talk of economic stimulus recently. Treaty settlements help unlock the economic development potential which exists in the regions and in the Maori community.

This is true, and Ngai Tahu are good examples of this. However it is worth remembering what Don Brash said – the gains for Maori from lifting educational and economic achievement are a magnitude higher than any gain from Treaty settlements. The settlements are at best a catalyst.

Settlements address our past and invest in a common future. The wrongs of history are real. Failure to address genuine grievance creates a new grievance.

But by providing an end point for the injustices and reaching durable and just settlements, we can move forward as a country – together.

I’m looking forward to most of the outstandinghistorical  claims being settled in the next six years.

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