Whilst the New Zealand media worked themselves into a frenzy last week over the refugee situation in Europe, they largely missed another major step forward in the Treaty settlement journey. On Saturday, Taranaki Iwi and the Crown signed a deed of settlement involving apology and redress for Crown actions in Taranaki that ignited the land wars across the North Island.
Given the significance of what happened in Taranaki it is no surprise that the settlement is one of the largest. It includes $70 million compensation for loss of land and returns various sites around the west coast to Iwi. It also acknowledges the injustice and devastation caused by one of the most notorious episodes in the history of the land wars – the sacking of Parihaka. This peaceful centre of non-violent protest was invaded and destroyed by Crown forces leaving a legacy of pain and suffering.
But now things are being put right. Quietly, away from the limelight, Taranaki Iwi and the the Hon Chris Finlayson are getting on with dealing with the past and laying the foundation for a better future. When it comes to nation building, Finlayson is the current Government’s star performer. The Prime Minister’s campaign to change the flag doesn’t even come close in terms of its significance.
However to John Key’s credit, he has given Finlayson a clear mandate to progress the Treaty settlements and is strongly supportive. Perhaps Key would do well to more visibly lend his weight to the process. Standing alongside his Treaty Settlements minister at Parihaka would have helped focus media attention where it should have been.
Of course the most credit for this good news story is not due to the politicians (although they deserve their share). It is due to the Taranaki Iwi who in spite of losing so much have acknowledged it is simply not possible to fully compensate them. As such they have accepted the settlement as fair and final and agreed that:
“the Crown is released and discharged from all obligations and liabilities in respect of the historical claims”
That is truly nation building.