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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Auckland settlement worst ever

The Waitangi Tribunal has told the Government to hold off on settlement of Auckland land claims until negotiations are complete with all tangata whenua groups.

In a hard hitting report released today, the tribunal says the deal reached last year with Ngati Whatua o Orakei is unfair to other iwi and it is unlikely to endure.

It also contains some scathing criticism of the Office of Treaty Settlements.

The Office has met with Ngati Whatua negotiators more than 100 times since 2003, but it refused to fully engage with any other iwi with historical links to Tamaki Makaurau until after the Orakei hapu signed an agreement in principle a year ago.

The tribunal says the office’s pattern of picking winners damages the whanaungatanga or relatedness which is at the core of being Maori.

It says the process followed in Auckland was too flawed to allow the settlement ot go ahead.

While Ngati Whatua would get huge advantages by being the first cab off the rank, there is no process in place to ensure other iwi get heard, let alone that the Crown would have any assets to settle with.

The tribunal says that both the Crown and Ngati Whatua decided not to be candid with the inquiry, and while it’s going too far to say witnesses lied, they definitely chose to provide only partial answers to key questions.

CLAIMANTS WELCOME PROCESS REPORT

The Waitangi Tribunal's Tamaki Makauru Settlement Process Report has been welcomed by cross claimants.

Marutuahu member and lawyer Paul Majurey says the tribunal has made it clear that the Crown failed to inform itself of the complex web of shared histories and relationships across the Auckland isthmus.

Marutuahu will ask the Crown to accept the tribunal's recommendations and work through the process it has outlined.

Mr Majurey says Ngati Whatua needs to set its settlement aside for now.

“Nothing can really happen without Ngati Whatua. They are part of the story of Auckland. And so without knowing exactly how they are going to react, what our real hope is is that they are going to respect the recommendations of the tribunal, see them for what they are in terms of trying to achieve a just outcome for all, and join in that process so that they can move speedily to their own settlement along with all the other tangata whenua,” Mr Majurey says.

NGATI WHATUA WANTS FULL STEAM AHEAD

Meanwhile, Ngati Whatua o Orakei says it's up to the Crown what happens with the Waitangi Tribunal report.

But spokesperson Ngarimu Blair says Ngati Whatua believes its settlement should go ahead.

“We believe there is still a lot of redress opportunities for those cross claimants who can prove ultimately that they have a relationship and a right to the wider Auckland isthmus. We hope that they do get to the table with the Crown as soon as possible,” Mr Blair says.

The Treaty Negotiations Minister says the tribunal's recommendations represent a significant shift way from the current Crown approach.

Mark Burton says if accepted they would delay settlements not just for Ngati Whatua but for other claims around the country, and he will be seeking alternate ways to achieve what the tribunal is suggesting.

REPORT A DEFEAT FOR GOVERNMENT TREATY AGENCY

The Government's treaty settlement process is in turmoil today, with the Waitangi Tribunal calling the proposed Auckland settlement the most flawed it has seen.

The tribunal has recommended the Crown go back to the start and negotiate with all iwi with interests in Tamaki Makaurau, not just the Orakei hapu of Ngati Whatua.

It says the proposed settlement was negotiated in such a secretive fashion it can't even work out what it was worth, let alone whether there's anything left to settle with other tribes.

Ngati Whatua is supposed to get several million dollars in cash, the right to buy naval housing in Devonport, a right of first refusal on surplus Crown properties across Auckland, as well as exclusive ownership of three of the city's iconic volcanoes.

Paul Majurey from the Marutuahu tribes says it represents a stunning defeat for the Crown and an indictment of the Office of Treaty Settlements.

“They're saying at the general level the process is fatally flawed, it’s creating division, it’s pitting whanaunga against whanaunga, and within Auckland they’re saying this is the worst treaty settlement they have ever seen. And that’s why we have an unprecedented recommendation by the Waitangi Tribunal that the settlement must stop in its tracks. It’s never happened before,” he says.

The Government needs to accept the recommendations and start talks with other claimant iwi.

AGRIBUSINESS AWARDS TONIGHT

Tonight is the big night on the agribusiness calendar with the naming of this year's winner of the Ahuwhenua Trophy for the Maori farm of the year.

Roger Pikia from Agresearch says the awards recognise the contribution Maori make to New Zealand agriculture, and they're also a way to showcase innovative ideas and best practice.

He says the winning farm has to impress the judges on a number of levels.

“The interaction between the governing board and obviously the owners and shareholders, bottom line performance, sustainability I guess is a huge one, it’s a given within Maori agribusiness in any case, given the inter-generational nature if the businesses,” Mr Pikia says.

RHODES LOOKING TO FOLLOW KIRI OVERSEAS

An up and coming Maori baritone says he'll have to go overseas to further his operatic career.

Phillip Rhodes of Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Awa says winning this year's Lexus Song Quest has opened doors internationally.

To sustain his success, he'll have to follow previous winner like Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Malvina Major and leave the country.

“We’ll eventually get overseas and earn some real money, because that doesn’t quite happen here in New Zealand. There’s limited opportunities and a lot of people have got to work and we don’t really have the funds to support an artist or many artists, so the goal is to get overseas,” he says.

Rhodes is now rehearsing Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, which is playing in Wellington as part of the NZI Winter Season.

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