Opinion: Tuhoe deal 'monumental'
Tuesday 11 Sep 2012 1:27 p.m.
The deal with Tuhoe over the ownership of Te Urewera is monumental (pic: Jared Mason)
Opinion by Political Reporter Patrick Gower
The Government's settlement with Tuhoe can be described in one word: monumental.
Monumental because it overcomes over 150 years of grievances.
Monumental because of the reconciliation of the most fractured relationship between the Crown and Maori.
Monumental in financial redress - it matches the other big settlements even though Tuhoe is not as big population wise.
Monumental because Te Urewera - a National Park - will instead become its own legal entity.
And monumental because of the possibilities that "Mana Motuhake" opens up for Tuhoe to develop as its own nation in the decades to come.
Tuhoe suffered some of the worst breaches by the Crown - the "scorched earth" policy, confiscation, the execution of unarmed prisoners - known at at the time as "extermination".
But now Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has found a way to settle it.
He has reached agreement with Tuhoe and for that he needs to be applauded - it will be his legacy.
And in that way this is monumental politically - Prime Minister John Key pulled the rug on this deal two years ago, refusing to give Tuhoe control of Te Urewera.
Tuhoe too have revised its aims - this is a true negotiation.
Finlayson says public access to Te Urewera is maintained under the agreement and it will be managed by the Department of Conservation.
"This new structure will allow the historical, cultural and spiritual connection between Te Urewera and Ngai Tuhoe to be fully recognised for the first time while the biodiversity of the area is protected and enhanced and public access is guaranteed for all New Zealanders," he says.
Mr Finlayson says some of New Zealand's most deprived and isolated communities live in Te Urewera - they will be helped by the financial redress and increased controls of their social services.
Tuhoe leader Tamati Kruger calls it a "real New Zealand idea".
There are many questions: how control of the park will work over time, and how much independence will Tuhoe achieve?
Will Tuhoe move to a genuine "nation within a nation"?
But for now the significance of this needs to be recognised.