The last election saw National offering a “brighter future”. The Hon Chris Finlayson, Minister of Treaty Negotiations, is certainly playing his part. Since he came to the job four years ago the Treaty settlement process has made major advances.
Last year alone the Minister oversaw the enactment of 11 pieces of settlement legislation, the signing of 8 deeds of settlement, worked out an agreement in principle for the Whanganui River settlement and completed negotiations with Tuhoe including the agreement of a social services plan. The legislation finalised deals for some major iwi including Ngati Whatua and Ngati Porou. The deeds were major steps along the way for other significant iwi including those impacted by the land conflict in Taranaki
This represents substantial progress on the settlement journey. It involves redress, apologies and resolution of long-standing grievances in areas all over New Zealand. Hundreds of millions of dollars will also now start the process of economic transformation for these iwi – just as it has already done for Ngai Tahu and Tainui who settled in the early 1990s. There will be improved financial security, greater educational opportunities, jobs and business prospects. There will indeed be new hope for a brighter future.
Minister Finlayson deserves huge credit for the energy, integrity and honour that he has brought to the settlement process. It is a task of prime importance in our nation.
In 1860 as conflict in Taranaki was brewing, New Zealand’s first Chief Justice Sir William Martin wrote of the need for Maori land rights to be protected and the Treaty to be honoured. He stated “To this undertaking the faith of the nation is pledged… It is the clear duty of every officer of the Crown, and of every loyal citizen, to do his utmost, by deed and word, to fulfil this national undertaking.”
One hundred and fifty years later, the Hon Chris Finlayson is fulfilling his duty with distinction.