Monday, December 24, 2007

Conflict over settlements

This morning's Herald reports that Treaty Settlements Minister Michael Cullen was forced to flee a settlement signing ceremony on a Northland beach after angry scenes with protestors. The tone of the piece - spun that way by the government, and eagerly taken up by DPF and his commenters - implies that the protestors belonged to the group the settlement was being signed with. It's not until the end that it notes that they are a different hapu, upset at the prospect of seeing land they regard as theirs (and which is included in their own claim) given away to their neighbours.

This sort of conflict is occuring more often with Treaty settlements, as the government starts dealing with some of the more difficult cases. Tribal boundaries were not exactly fixed, and so to some extent the settlement process inevitably entails an element of dispute resolution as well as historical redress. To point out the obvious, historical redress is not about returning land to Maori. It's about returning land to the right Maori - the descendents of those who owned it when it was taken. The worry is that in the current rush to settle, there's a serious chance of getting it wrong - which in turn means the issue comes back to haunt us.

As for DPF, I think its worth remembering that Treaty settlements are not about affirming his sense of munificence (or "goodwill" as he terms it), but about righting the wrongs of the past. And where those wrongs are not righted, but are in fact compounded, I don't see why anyone should take it lying down.