Chris Finalyson writes in the Herald:
An important election commitment made by the National Party in 2008 was to set a goal of concluding just and durable Treaty settlements by 2014.
The reasons were simple – by healing the grievances of the past, all New Zealanders could move forward.
It was not an option to forget the past and the legitimate claims of iwi, but nor did we want to be stuck there. Settlements ultimately benefit everyone.
Getting past grievance mode is a win-win.
It should be borne in mind when National became the Government in 2008, there were about 60 settlements outstanding. Fully 20 per cent of these are claims in the Auckland region.
Dr Cullen did a good job in making progress on settlements, but alas his Labour predecessors not so much.
Sometimes iwi ask for a say in how a natural resource can be looked after. Again, Ninety Mile Beach – Te Oneroa a Tohe – provides an example.
Not only is it of spiritual significance to Maori but it also was an ancient food-gathering area, for the famed toheroa and for mullet.
Those food stocks have deteriorated over the years and the iwi wants some say on how the beach can be restored. This seems reasonable given the historical connection they have with the beach and so the Government is prepared to involve those iwi in looking at ways in which environmental damage can be repaired for the good of all beach-goers.
These are exciting times. The opportunity exists for concluding just and durable settlements throughout the Auckland region, something that a few years ago would have been regarded as a pipe dream.
Iwi are keen to get on with the business, the Crown is keen, and everyone agrees that public access can never be compromised.
That is why this Government is moving with such determination to resolve historical Treaty issues. Settling historical Treaty claims by 2014 means just that – settlements have to take place.
Governments cannot just talk about settling – they actually have to do the deals. The Crown and Maori are determined to work together to undo the heavy burdens of the past and move on. It is a time for optimism and positive thinking.
The 2014 target is ambitious, maybe even aspirational. But it would be a massive achievement to have all major historic treaty claims achieve final settlement during this Government’s tenure.