Current National Party spokesperson for Crown-Māori Relations and former Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson says claims that National put politics ahead of achieving a just settlement with Whakatōhea are wrong.
“The agreement in principle negotiated with Whakatōhea is one of the largest ever recognising the severe losses suffered by the iwi over many years,” Mr Finlayson says.
“The suggestion that political considerations overrode the need for a just and durable settlement is wrong and insulting to the Crown and to me personally.
“Throughout my time I worked with Whakatōhea over at least seven years to lay the foundations for a successful settlement. Crown officials also laboured for many years with the leadership of Whakatōhea to get to a position in 2016 where the iwi was invited to enter into negotiations.
“There was nothing rushed about it. Indeed when I attended the commemorations of the battle of Te Tarata in October 2015 I was criticised by some speakers for taking too long to begin negotiations.
“In adopting this approach to the actions of the Crown the Waitangi Tribunal has failed to consider the full history and process of the negotiations.
“The suggestion that the Crown should pay interest is unreasonable. Interest is always paid from the time of the initialling of the deed of settlement and I hope the Crown ignores this recommendation.
“I applaud the statesmanlike approach of Whakatōhea leaders who have welcomed the report and the recommendation that there be another ballot – which was always agreed – to resolve these matters.
“I also acknowledge the outstanding efforts of all Crown officials with whom it was my privilege to work on this very important matter.
“The fine leaders of Whakatōhea who have worked so hard on these negotiations in recent years deserve to be praised for their efforts and I hope that this report doesn’t deter them from seeking a full and final settlement of their grievances.”