As we approach the anniversary of New Zealand’s foundation as a British colony it is important to understand the nature of the Treaty of Waitangi grievances, the settlement process that is underway, the reasons for their lengthy duration and the significance of Te Tiriti O Waitangi. To the untrained eye it might seem that the negotiations and the settlements are never ending, but many of the larger settlements have now been achieved and it is perhaps realistic to put an end date on the proceedings.
To the critic the money and resources being poured into completing the settlements seem wasteful, but there are very good reasons for the thoroughness. The criticisms have come from across the political and social spectrum with politicians such as Winston Peters and parties such as A.C.T. using the issue to gain leverage in election campaigns. They have generally voiced the concern that the Treaty is a gravy train and that settlements are taking too much time and resources. At the other end of the critic range, there are Maori activists, such as Titewhai Harawira and her son, former Maori and Mana Party Member of Parliament, Hone Harawira. These activists say that the settlement process is not thorough enough and that the scope of the compensation is inadequate for the grievances being claimed.
There are also three key criteria I think every settlement needs to achieve in order for the settlements and the process used to negotiate them to be proper. I call the principles the three F’s. In the public eye, assuming They are the cornerstone principles on which the entire process of settling grievances has been set.
The three F’s are:
FULL: This is twofold. First a T.o.W. settlement must have dealt with, even if it does not ultimately provide for, all aspects of a claim. That means the Waitangi Tribunal must have entered into official dialogue with the claimants regarding all aspects and reached a resolution on whether or not compensation is appropriate.
FAIR: This might seem obvious. Without this, one party or the other has a right be feeling aggrieved, which can prolong the negotiations, possibly make the actual act of reaching an agreement harder. To achieve this requirement, each settlement between the Crown and Iwi or Hapu will have presumably laid down the scope of the issues being negotiated
FINAL: When the word final is used in this context, it not only suggests that the parties agree that not only are the issues that have been discussed resolved, but that there are no other major outstanding issues to be resolved.
Since 1990, both National and Labour led Governments have made substantial inroads into the Treaty settlement process. Ngai Tahu, whose ancestral lands cover most of the South Island achieved a settlement with the National led Government of Jim Bolger. Ngati Porou, whose lands cover East Cape, Gisborne and Tuhoe whose ancestral lands include Urewera National Park have all been settled. It is realistic to believe that settlement negotiations will be wound up in the next 10-15 years.
Then perhaps Aotearoa New Zealand can move forward as one.