Maori grievance costs best reduced by speeding up the process, says United Future
The best way of curtailing the burgeoning ‘treaty grievance industry’ is to get the job finished, says United Future MP
and Waitangi Treaty spokesman, Murray Smith.
Mr Smith has been pushing vigorously both in Parliament and in the Maori Affairs select committee to get the Government
to provide the resources necessary to settle all historical grievances within 10 to 15 years maximum.
“However,” Mr Smith said, “my motivation to see the process speeded up is not primarily financial but rather because I
believe that until the historical grievances are resolved, New Zealand can’t move forward into the future with freedom
and with harmony between Maori and pakeha.
Mr Smith does not accept the Government’s suggestion that it is moving as quickly as it can. This can easily be
disproved, he says, by noting the time that the Government has taken over the last two settlement Bills to be introduced
“The Te Uri O Hou Claims Settlement Act took two years from the time the settlement agreement was signed until the Bill
passed its third reading,” he said. “And even then, the Government had to pass it during the recent “urgency” because
the agreement promised that legislation would be passed within two years and that period was due to expire in December.”
“The Ngati Ruanui Claims Settlement Bill is currently before the Maori Affairs Select Committee but it is 18 months
since the settlement agreement was signed,” Mr Smith said. “If the Government really wanted to, settlement Bills could
easily be passed within six months of the signing of the settlement agreement.”
However the major hold-up, Mr Smith believes, is in the under-resourcing of the Waitangi Tribunal. All of the
tribunal’s limited research budget is currently being used to research the East Coast claims and as a result a host of
other claims are waiting to be processed.
“The Office of Treaty Settlements calculates that there are an estimated 40 to 50 settlements to be completed,” Mr
Smith said. “Over National’s period in government they averaged one settlement per year. Labour in its last term
averaged one and a half settlements per year and is now predicting that it will achieve two settlements per year during
this parliamentary term.”
“At that rate we will still be resolving grievances in 25 years,” Mr Smith said “and most New Zealanders consider that
to be far too long.”
Based on his research Mr Smith believes that it is quite possible, given adequate resourcing and political will, for a
minimum of four settlements to be achieved in the next year and 10 during the current parliamentary term. He, for one,
will be measuring the Labour Government’s performance against that benchmark.