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Settling historical Treaty of Waitangi claims

Claims for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi before 1992 are known as historical claims. Settlements aim to resolve these claims by providing some redress to claimant groups.

What is a historical Treaty of Waitangi settlement?

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed by Māori rangatira, or chiefs, and representatives of the British Crown in 1840. The Treaty has 3 articles.

The Treaty:

  • gave sovereignty in New Zealand to the British Crown
  • enabled Māori to keep rangatiratanga, or chieftainship, over their resources, while giving the Crown first rights to any land being sold after that time, and
  • guaranteed Māori the rights and privileges of British citizens.

Historical claims are made by Māori against the Crown for breaches of the Treaty — times when the Crown did not uphold 1 or more of these articles — before 1992.

Historical settlements aim to resolve these claims and provide some redress to claimant groups. When a settlement is reached, it becomes law.

Who’s involved in a settlement

The Crown settles with Large Natural Groups (LNGs) — communities with a common ancestry. LNGs are known as claimant groups, and can be made up of:

  • a single iwi
  • a group of iwi
  • a collection of hapū from the same geographical area.

The Crown is the government, and government agencies. Te Arawhiti negotiates with representatives of claimant groups on behalf of the Crown.

What a settlement provides

Settlements give 3 kinds of redress to the claimant group.

  1. An historical account of the Treaty breaches, and Crown acknowledgement and apology

    The historical account details the ways that the Crown breached the Treaty. Both the Crown and the claimant group must agree on these. The Crown acknowledges and apologises for the Treaty breaches and the impact they had on the claimant group.

  2. Cultural redress

    Cultural redress can include things like:

    • changing place names
    • the transfer of Crown land to the claimant group, and
    • co-governance of rivers and lakes.
  3. Commercial and financial redress

    This is cash, property, or a mixture of both.

The settlement process

There are 4 stages in a Treaty settlement.

  1. Pre-negotiation — the claimant group chooses people to represent them in negotiations. The Crown and the representatives signs Terms of Negotiation.
  2. Negotiation — the representatives and the Crown negotiate a final Deed of Settlement. The claimant group must agree to the proposed settlement before moving to the next stage of the process.
  3. Legislation — the settlement becomes law.
  4. Implementation — the Crown and the claimant group work together to make sure everything agreed in the Deed of Settlement happens.

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