Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust is calling on Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson to explain why he is continuing to sign controversial Treaty settlements just 10 days out from the election.
In recent weeks, the Minister has initialled Deeds of Settlement with Ngāti Pāoa and Ngāti Whanaunga without any publicity. It is understood he will soon initial further Deeds of Settlement with Marutūāhu and the Hauraki Collective, again behind closed doors.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei spokesperson Ngarimu Blair says the signings display a new level of political arrogance.
“Signing deals this close to an election is ridiculous, especially when the Minister’s party is not guaranteed of being in power shortly. He should hold off on these signings until after the election.
“The Minister knows these settlements are controversial. He knows they include matters currently before the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, yet he’s deliberately ignoring all of this,” says Mr Blair.
Several iwi have raised serious concerns about the Hauraki settlement, including Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngāti Haua, Ngāti Rehua Ngātiwai ki Aotea, Raukawa and Tauranga Moana.
In late July, Minister Finlayson told Parliament that, “The last thing I want to do through a Treaty settlement, or rushing through a Treaty settlement, is to create further grievance”. Mr Blair says he’s now doing the complete opposite, as the Hauraki settlements include the transfer of properties from within the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei rohe to groups that have no proven ahi kā roa to that land.
“This looks like a Minister trying to get his signature on a few more settlements in case his party is thrown out of office soon. This would be a sad end to the Minister’s career, if he is using the cover of an election campaign to get these deals done for mates, rather than delivering settlements that our country can be proud of,” says Mr Blair.
Earlier this year, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Ngāti Pāoa signed a Kawenata (agreement) to work together to define their areas of interest in Tāmaki Makaurau. Both iwi committed to act in a way that is tika and pono (doing the right thing, in the right way) and respect each other’s mana. However, Ngāti Pāoa has since walked away from that agreement, which Mr Blair says is extremely disappointing.
“We encourage the next Government to look closely at the overlapping claims process. Treaty settlements need to be mana-enhancing and respectful of all iwi involved,” says Mr Blair.
“We hope that whoever is the Minister following the election will take a responsible approach and care more about relationships rather than their own signature on a settlement.”