Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Judge defends $3 billion settlement estimate

Maori Land Court Chief Judge Joe Williams says there is no conflict between his estimate of $3 billion for the value of treaty settlements and the government's one billion dollar cap.

While the current Labour led government says it it not bound by the former National government's fiscal envelope policy, any spending over $1 billion would trigger additional payments to the first tribes to settle, Tainui and Ngai Tahu.

Judge Williams says while the government can keep the spending on its books below $1 billion, its commercial value to Maori may be greater.

“During the course of the treaty settlement process running up until about 2015 and 2020, something between $2 and $3 billion in largely commercial assets will be transferred to tribal interests., You do the numbers and you see that’s a largely uncontroversial figure,” Williams says.

Joe Williams told the Federation of Maori Authorities conference on the weekend that their challenge would be building up the number of skilled people needed to administer and grow the settlement assets coming over.

RATES REVIEW MISSES MARK FOR MAORI

Gisborne District Councilor Atareta Poananga says a government inquiry into rating is unlikely to make any real difference to Maori land owners.

Ms Poananga says the inquiry seems designed to shut down widespread outrage about rising rates in the main centres, rather than tackle the fundamental basis of rating.

She says the terms of reference don't address concerns Maori have that their land should be assessed differently because of the Treaty of Waitangi.

“They're just talking about the impact of rating on Maori, but I think it’s got to be much wider than that. It’s the actual mechanisms for how they establish the rating and the cultural world view that underpins the whole rating, which is about a wealth tax, those are the core issues that need to be addressed,” Poananga says.

Atareta Poananga says it is extremely disappointing there are no Maori on the three person review team led by former Wellington City Councilor David Shand.

RARAWA FESTIVAL TURNOUT IN THOUSANDS

Te Rarawa chairperson Haami Piripi says attendence at the Te Rarawa Festival exceeded all expectations.

Thousands of people from the far north iwi came home to Kaitaia for six days of sports, culture and entertainement - as well as some discussion of the tribe's future direction.

Mr Piripi says there was a strong sense of whanaungatanga.

“I guess it reflected everyone coming home from Auckland and Wellington for the week, and everybody who was at home sitting down with their families and it was a good time to get together sharing the old stories with the old people and thinking about where we are going to go in the future,” Piripi says.

CROWN FORESTRY BACKS OFF MAIORO LOGGING

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says won't appeal an Environment Court decision blocking the logging of four blocks in the Waiuku forest.

Ngati Te Ata challenged the consent to log the blocks at Maioro on the north head of the Waikato River because they contained waahi tapu where ancestors were buried.

Crown Forestry operations manager Warwick Foran the ministry accepts the court's decision.

“The court upholds that harvesting of the trees on these areas will cause greater damage to Ngati Te Ata in their role as kaitiaki of the former Maori land than would be any benefit to the Crown in harvesting these trees,” Foran says.

Warwick Foran says the forest is now likely to be handed over to the Department of Conservation, which administers the land, pending any resolution of Ngati Te Ata's treaty claims.

SETTLEMENT PERFORMANCE SPECTACULAR

Maori Land Court chief judge Joe Williams says the performance of post settlement Maori organisations is spectacular by the standards of other indigenous settlements.

Judge Williams says while the cost of settlements to the Crown so far is about $700 million, Maori have already grown those assets substantially.

Tainui, which received a $170 million settlement a decade ago, has more than doubled its assets, and Ngai Tahu has tripled a similar putea.

He says those iwi may not be unusual.

“So much of the value of these settlements is in the timing, in the add on pieces, in the value of Crown forestry rentals that are thrown into the mix and in the 10 or 20 years to grow that putea to something at really makes a difference. Fisheries is the classic example, in the books at $220 million dollars, and distributed somewhere between $600 and $800 million,” Williams says.

Judge Joe Williams says the challenge for tribal organisations is to work out how to distribute the benefits of settlements in ways which will improve the lives of their members.

WANANAGA SECTOR DUMBED DOWN

The former head of Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi says the government has dumbed down the wananga sector.

Gary Hook was lured back from a distinguished international career in environmental health science to run the Whakatane-based Maori tertiary institution.

He was ousted at the end of last year as the wananga board moved to tackle a $4 million deficit caused by lower student enrolments and over-staffing.

Dr Hook says the wananga sector isn't getting the support it needs to live up to its promise.

“The hope was that Maori might have a tertiary institution which could carry them to the very heights of scholarship, to take them to the position where they can compete in world markets, but the reality is that because of various policies within government, Maori wananga have become glorified polytechs,” Hook says.

PETERS SAYS FORESHORE LAW ACCEPTABLE FOR FIJI

Conflicts over ownership of the foreshore and seabed are having different outcomes in New Zealand and Fiji.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says Fiji's government has a right to pass the laws it sees fit.

Tensions are high in the island nation after army commander Frank Bainimarama demanded Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase step down rather than push through two controversial measures.

Mr Qarase has backed down over a plan to pardon George Speight and others involved in the 2000 coup, but he is pressing ahead with a bill which will give the foreshore to Fijian clans - similar to what Maori have asked for with the foreshore and seabed.

Mr Peters says it is unacceptable for the head of the armed services to threaten the civilian leadership.

“You can't run a democracy like that, and whilst we might have views about the arguments behind why positions are being taken, you can’t just ignore the mandate given by the people if Fiji in May, when they the people knew what they were voting for, and why, the background, they have after all lived in Fiji all their lives, and they had said this is what we want,” Peters says.

Winston Peters says he doesn't believe the crisis in Fiji is likely to lead to bloodshed, and it could be the rhetoric is a sort of Melanesian safety valve.

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