INDEPENDENT NEWS

Speedy process best for Maori grievance costs

Published: Fri 1 Nov 2002 09:39 AM
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 into Parliament.
“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.

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