Sunday Star-Times

Tribes’ discreet $370 million Treaty top-ups

Tony Wall and Carmen Parahi reveal big new iwi payouts.


Two iwi have quietly been paid huge top-ups, totalling $370 million, to their supposed ‘‘full and final’’ Treaty of Waitangi settlement­s.

Waikato-Tainui received $190m and the South Island’s Nga¯i Tahu $180m – more than they originally settled for in 1995 and 1998, respective­ly.

The Government made the payments on December 15 without any public announceme­nt, but they were discovered by the Sunday Star-Times and confirmed by the Office of Treaty Settlement­s this week.

In response to Star-Times inquiries, Nga¯i Tahu released informatio­n about the payout to its 58,000 iwi members, who hadn’t been told about it. The payments were made because of ‘‘relativity’’ clauses the tribes negotiated during the ‘‘fiscal envelope’’ settlement process in the mid-1990s.

It meant that once total Treaty settlement spending throughout the country reached $1 billion, the two iwi were entitled to a percentage of all other tribes’ settlement­s. For Tainui, the figure was 17 per cent, valued in 1994 dollars, and for Nga¯i Tahu, 16 per cent.

Nga¯i Tahu Board chairwoman Lisa Tumahai said the relativity clause was an agreement between the Crown and Nga¯i Tahu that ‘‘ensures that as one of the first iwi to settle, our economic redress continues to remain relative with all future claims settled by other iwi’’. The clauses were triggered for the first time in 2012, when Tainui was paid $70m and Nga¯i Tahu $68.5m. There has been ongoing arbitratio­n over whether those figures were high enough. Since then, there have been more than two dozen settlement­s.

There are likely to be further large top-ups, with one of the country’s biggest claims, by Nga¯puhi in Northland, among the 47 negotiatio­ns still under way. Total Treaty settlement spending currently sits at $2.2 billion. Both Tainui and Nga¯i Tahu were paid $170m in their original settlement­s – but have now received $260m and $248m, respective­ly, in additional payments. The clauses, agreed by the National Government of the day, were to induce the two iwi to become the first to settle and to ensure they were not disadvanta­ged, but have become something of a millstone around successive Government­s’ necks. A source in the Labour-led Government said some ministers were unhappy that every time a Treaty settlement was achieved, another 33 cents in the dollar had to be paid to the two tribes. Treaty Negotiatio­ns Minister Andrew Little said no-one had expressed unhappines­s to him, although several members of the new Government were unaware of the clauses. Payments were agreed by Cabinet and would have been made public, but the preChristm­as timing wasn’t right. He said there was a contractua­l obligation on the Crown to pay the top-ups. Associate professor Peter Adds, a Treaty negotiator from Victoria University’s school of Ma¯ori studies, said the relativity clauses were ‘‘probably a mistake’’. He suspected the Crown didn’t realise at the time the extent to which the $1b fiscal cap would blow out. In a statement, Tainui said the Tribal Parliament would meet in February to decide how the latest payment would be used ‘‘to achieve our strategic vision’’. Tumahai said all of the money would be invested with the Nga¯i Tahu Holdings Corporatio­n. She expects it will grow the iwi’s $1b economic base and increase distributi­ons to tribal members and entities.

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