Some light on Tuhoe

There has effectively been two aspects of the Government’s decision to not hand over the Urewera National Park to as part of the settlements – the actual decision, and the way it was made public at a press conference before negotiations were concluded.

I doubt many people have an issue with the actual decision. No other treaty settlement has had a national park as part of it – unless it is gifted back. According to reports the Government has offered co-management of the park, which is not insignificant.

But what had puzzled me was why the decision was made public by the Government, rather than just communicated privately to Tuhoe. This is what a lot of media had focused on – the fact the decision was made public.

As it happened on Saturday night, I was at a social function with the PM. Normally it is not my habit to use these opportunities to ask the PM questions, but this one had puzzled me, so I put aside my normal rule and did ask him why he made the decision over the Urewera National Park public.

His answer was simple – because Tuhoe asked him to!

He communicated the decision by phone to the Tuhoe Chief Negotiator on Monday morning. The Chief Negotiator said that as Iwi members were planning to gather on Friday in anticipation of an agreement, they needed to be told and asked the Prime Minister to make the Government’s decision public. The Prime Minister said he could announce it at the post Cabinet press conference that afternoon, and that was deemed satisfactory.

And so he did.

So it was not part of any public slap down – something which I never thought was the PM’s style – hence why I asked the question.

My hope is that a settlement can still be reached. The wrongs done to Tuhoe were massive. They will be disappointed with the Government’s decision, but listening to Phil Goff on Q+A made it pretty clear they have little chance of getting a different decision from a different Government in the future.

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