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Settling claims

Healing the past, building a future

Settlements of historical claims are the Crown's way of making up for past breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and restoring good relationships with iwi (tribes).

Sometimes current government policy can also impact on Māori interests adversely and give rise to issues that need to be addressed.

Two kinds of settlement

Settlements of historical claims

Claims that relate to things the Crown did or failed to do before 21 September 1992 are dealt with by the Office of Treaty Settlements.

On 21 September 1992, Cabinet agreed on general principles for settling Treaty of Waitangi claims. This date then became the cut-off date for historical claims, so that consistent comparisons could be made between the redress provided to different claimant groups.

Settlements of contemporary claims

These are claims that relate to events after 21 September 1992. They are addressed (on an urgent basis) by the Waitangi Tribunal. Any Crown response to the Tribunal's recommendations involves the government department or agency with responsibility for the relevant policy area.

Enlarge image Raupatu (confiscations) proclaimed by the government

This map shows the raupatu (confiscations) proclaimed by the government in December 1864 during the New Zealand Wars. Over three million acres (1.2 million hectares) were confiscated. Around half was subsequently paid for or returned to Māori.

Source: Claudia Orange, An Illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi, Wellington, 2004, based on official sources.

Why are there historical settlements?

The Crown has accepted a moral obligation to resolve historical grievances resulting from its past actions that have been in breach of its promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Crown has acknowledged it breached the Treaty in a number of ways including:

  • land confiscation
  • execution or detention of prisoners without trial
  • failure to preserve lands for iwi
  • impact of the native land laws
  • taking of land for public works.
Enlarge image Signing a Deed of Settlement between the Crown and Ngāti Ruanui

A Deed of Settlement between the Crown and Ngāti Ruanui is signed in May 2000 by the Minister in Charge of Treaty Negotiations, Margaret Wilson, and Ngāti Ruanui negotiator Steve Heremaia, with Mate Carr (far right) and OTS staff looking on. Courtesy of The Daily News

Negotiating historical settlements

Historical settlements can be negotiated only by the Crown and the claimant group. All major Crown decisions are made by Cabinet or the relevant ministers, with the Office of Treaty Settlements supporting the negotiation and settlement process. Currently the Office’s sixty staff are working with twenty-five claimant groups at various stages of the negotiation process.

Enlarge image Ngahinaturae Te Uira and other members of the Waikato Tainui

Ngati Ruanui members fill the steps of Parliment in May 2003 for the third reading of the legislation finalising their settlement.

Courtesy of The Daily News

Parliament's role

Parliament passes laws to put the settlement into effect and stop the courts or the Waitangi Tribunal from holding further hearings into any historical grievances of the claimant group.

Enlarge image Ngahinaturae Te Uira and other members of the Waikato Tainui

Ngahinaturae Te Uira and other members of the Waikato Tainui iwi watch from Parliament's public gallery as the Waikato settlement legislation passes its final stages in October 1995.

Photograph by Craig Simcox, Dominion Post Collection, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library (Ref: EP/1995/4228/4A)

Negotiating a settlement package

During negotiations, representatives of the claimant group and the Crown meet regularly to discuss the grievances and work out redress.

The claimant group can’t be fully compensated for their losses. Instead, settlement redress is intended to recognise the losses, restore the relationships between the group and the Crown, and contribute to the group’s economic development.

Once negotiators have reached agreement, all adult claimant group members vote on accepting or rejecting the Crown's offer.

Enlarge image Women seated with photos of their tīpuna (ancestors) during Ngāti Awa settlement celebrations

Courtesy of the Office of Treaty Settlements

Celebrating the settlement.

These women are seated with photos of their tīpuna (ancestors) during Ngāti Awa settlement celebrations at Kokohinau Marae in the Bay of Plenty, in April 2005. Sometimes many generations have battled to have grievances addressed.

The restoration of tribal mana is often the most important part of a settlement.

Over to the iwi

The claimant group must set up an organisation to hold and manage the settlement assets. The Crown must be satisfied that this organisation is representative, transparent, and accountable to all members of the claimant group.

How the assets are used is for the group to decide.

Settled historical claims

Since 1992 there have been twenty-one settlements.

Enlarge image Queen Elizabeth II, Māori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, PM Jim Bolger, and Minister in Charge of Treaty Negotiations Doug Graham

Photograph by John Nicholson, Dominion Post Collection, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: EP/1995/4375B/33A)

Reconciliation.

The Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act 1995 received the Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth II, shown here with the Māori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, Prime Minister Jim Bolger (left), and Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Doug Graham. The Act included an apology by the Crown acknowledging the Treaty breach in its relationships with the Kingitanga (King Movement) and Waikato iwi. It expressed regret for the loss of lives from the invasion of Waikato in 1863 and resulting devastation of property and tribal life.

Ahakoa he iti, he māpihi pounamu.
Even though it is a small return, it is an adornment of greenstone.