Story: Ngā whakataunga tiriti – Treaty of Waitangi settlement process

Page 5. Refining the settlement process

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Assisting progress on claims settlement

A number of measures were introduced to assist progress on claim settlement:

  • The Crown negotiated with representatives of claimant communities once it felt that those representatives had a suitable mandate from their people.
  • As a result of negotiations following court action, Crown lands or other interests transferred to state-owned enterprises had ‘memorials’ placed on their titles. Buyers of those Crown interests had to agree to sell them back to the Crown for use in claim settlements if required to.
  • Land surplus to Crown requirements but identified by claimants for potential use in a treaty settlement could be placed in a ‘land bank’. By 2011 there were 15 regional land banks throughout the country managed by the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS), set up in 1995 within the Department of Justice (later the Ministry of Justice) to replace the Treaty of Waitangi Policy Unit.
  • Down-payments on final settlements, assistance with negotiating costs, waiving the requirement for Crown-owned marginal strips alongside returned water systems, and outright gifts of assets were among other matters conceded by the Crown to secure settlements.

Stages of a settlement

The main stages to reach settlement of claims were:

  • establishing the nature of the treaty breaches (which might involve detailed research, and hearings before the Waitangi Tribunal)
  • establishing that the claimant group – usually an iwi or group of tribes – had a mandate from its members to negotiate settlement
  • negotiating an agreement in principle, which then needed endorsement from the claimant community
  • a deed of settlement, setting out the detailed terms of the settlement of the claims against the Crown
  • legislation confirming the settlement.

Elements of a treaty settlement

A treaty claim settlement was often made up of:

  • a historical account of the claim issues and events, agreed between the Crown and the claimant group
  • acknowledgement of breaches and apology for them from the Crown
  • financial redress in the form of cash, Crown-owned property or a combination of these and other items –such as a right of first refusal to buy surplus Crown-owned property
  • cultural redress, for example recognition of the claimant group's cultural associations with customary food-gathering areas or sites of spiritual significance
  • agreements to change the official place names of certain sites, to reflect their original names; for example Ninety Mile Beach was renamed Te Oneroa a Tohe.

Concluding a settlement

Concluding settlement of a treaty claim was often an occasion for relief and celebration by all parties. Two hundred Waikato–Tainui people wearing specially made blue scarves and neckties thronged Parliament’s public gallery in 2010 to hear the final reading of the bill settling their negotiations over the Waikato River. The settlement provided for co-management of the river. It also enabled the tribe to carry out customary activities on the river such as fishing for eels and whitebait, launching ceremonial waka (canoes) and transporting human remains without the need for permits.

The ‘Treelords’ settlement

Following the 1998 Ngāi Tahu settlement, a further 15 settlements were negotiated and agreed by 2008. All were for multi-million dollar compensation packages. The largest in terms of financial value was the 2008 ‘Treelords’ (nicknamed after the Sealord fisheries settlement) agreement signed with seven central North Island tribes. It returned $196 million of forest land in total. In addition, the tribes were to receive rentals that had accumulated since 1989 on the land, valued at $223 million. Final comprehensive settlements were to be negotiated later with all central North Island tribes.

Settlement progress by 2011

By December 2011 deeds of settlement had been signed with 44 claimant groups. Terms of negotiation and agreements in principle – earlier processes towards reaching a treaty settlement – had been signed with a further 15 groups. Those negotiations and settlements were with groups whose tribal areas covered the bulk of the land area of New Zealand.

How to cite this page:

Richard S. Hill, 'Ngā whakataunga tiriti – Treaty of Waitangi settlement process - Refining the settlement process', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 May 2024)

Story by Richard S. Hill, published 20 Jun 2012, updated 1 Apr 2023