Saturday, February 2, 2013
Mike Butler: National’s $1b treaty spend-upLabels: John Key, Mike Butler, Treaty settlements
An update of Treaty Transparency, published at NZCPR.com this week, shows the extent of treaty settlement generosity under the current National Party-led government. John Key’s government has signed up and mostly transferred a total amount $1.07-billion since 2008. At Ratana marae in late January, Key unwittingly clarified his view of his historical redress haste -- treaty settlements are to buy votes.
The National-led government’s Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has completed 16 settlements, while 17 are awaiting legislation. By contrast, the Helen Clark-led Labour government completed 12 for a total amount of $411.9-million.
For those who continue to maintain that treaty settlements are all about historical “justice”, a few unpalatable facts raise questions as to whether the process is about justice or buying favour.
For instance, a bit of double-dipping appeared in December, in a deed signed between the government and an unknown Waikato group named Ngati Koroki Kahukura that includes $3-million plus interest in financial and commercial redress and $3.73-million “cultural” funding.
Ngati Koroki Kahukura members describe themselves as Waikato-Tainui. NZCPR readers will know that Waikato-Tainui benefited from a full-and-final settlement of $170-million in 1995, and before that had been receiving £5000 a year as a result of the Waikato-Maniapoto Maori Claims Settlement Act that was passed on October 7, 1946, another full-and-final settlement.
Meanwhile, Waikato-Tainui asked for more when the Office of Treaty Settlements announced that the initial settlement top-up that would come their way when the relativity clause in the tribe’s 1995 deal was triggered last June. The government calculated that Waikato-Tainui was due $70-million, a whopping sum by anyone’s imagination. But spokesman Tukuroirangi Morgan said the tribe wanted significantly more, believed to be a total of $120-million.
With the information detailed in Treaty Transparency, the sum due to Waikato-Tainui is simple to calculate, and the answer shows that Morgan is way off base.
Then there is the raft of settlements with northern South Island tribes Ngati Kuia ($24.9-million), Rangitane o Wairau ($25.4-million), Ngati Apa ki te Ra To ($28.4-million), Ngati Koata ($11.7-million), and Te Atiawa o Te waka-a-Maui ($11.7-million).
These claimant bodies grieve about a time between 1820, when they came to the region from Taranaki, to escape inter-tribal warfare and related murder and cannibalism, and 1840. These people controlled areas for less than 20 years before stronger tribes drove them out. The tribes listed above controlled no land in 1840, the cut-off date for investigating grievances, yet they seem to qualify for multi-million dollar payouts.
Information in Treaty Transparency shows how these claims are baseless.
While such settlements are publicly notified by cursory press release uncritically reproduced in the news media, details can be difficult to dig out if you don’t know where to look. It is helpful for the public to know what the claim is all about – hence the value of Treaty Transparency.
Treaty Transparency puts the spotlight on one often-overlooked detail, that the entire treaty settlement industry only exists because of some spectacularly inept policy decisions by successive governments.
One such crazy decision led to 2034 historical claims being filed by 2009. The Lange Labour government of the 1980s can be credited with that epic blunder, by permitting the investigation of alleged grievances back to 1840. Little known is the fact that most issues had been settled about 100 years earlier. A delegation of chiefs took only nine complaints to Queen Victoria in 1886
Everybody except governments of the day could see that investigation of settled history would open a Pandora's box, and the outcome would cost everyone dearly.
Buying the favour of chiefs is nothing new. Historians know that 19th century New Zealand governments routinely paid off chiefs to get them on side. It appears buying favour continues.
The updated version of Treaty Transparency may be read at: http://www.nzcpr.com/TreatyTransparencyResearchReportJanuary2013.pdf
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