New Zealand firm Bell Gully advised Te Arawa, a confederation of major North Island tribes, on the negotiation of an agreement to settle a large number of its Treaty of Waitangi historical claims. The signing of the agreement in principle was seen as a milestone in New Zealand Treaty settlement history.
Senior associate Damian Stone said the agreement sought to settle the largest number of claims in one deal, within the shortest timeframe, to date. “This signals what can be achieved within a relatively short timeframe even in the most complex of situations,” he said.
The settlement package covered approximately 54 claims of the Te Arawa iwi (tribe) and hapu (sub tribes) represented by the Te Arawa Executive Council (Te Arawa KEC), which collectively comprise more than 20,000 people. It included financial and commercial redress totalling NZ$36 million ($34 million), and a deferred selection mechanism, which if fully utlised by the Te Arawa KEC would allow the purchase of up to 49,000 hectares of land with an estimated value of NZ$170 million ($159 million).
The agreement also included an historical account that recognised the breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi that occurred. A Crown apology will be recorded in the final deed of settlement. The Crown and Te Arawa KEC are now working towards a final Deed of Settlement, which will be ratified by member iwi and hapu.
Bell Gully’s Maori services team advised the Te Arawa KEC. “Treaty settlements are political in nature, and the clear steer from all the major political parties is that Treaty settlements need to occur at a quicker pace,” Stone said.
“This deal illustrates that with the right approach, people and outlook, major settlement outcomes can in fact be achieved in a timely fashion, which is important not just for the claimants, but for the nation as well.”
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