Treaty settlements important addition to Cullen's legacy
Sun, 29 Jun 2008 12:00a.m.
It has been an historic week in treaty settlements, with Michael Cullen signing four different deals that all up are worth almost $600 million in assets and cash.
Among the deals are settlements with iwi from Wellington, Te Arawa, and the biggest ever with the central north island collective.
So why has there been a sudden rush of treaty deals in the past year?
The most recent was the biggest deal signed in treaty history worth nearly half a billion dollars; a highly lucrative contract dubbed the Treelords settlement, witnessed by 800 Maori at Parliament on Wednesday.
"With the signing of this deed of settlement, we are taking the largest single step forward in that process of reconciliation to date," says Michael Cullen.
For the past two decades, the Crown and iwi had failed to come to an agreement of how to split up the Kaingaroa forest. So what was different this time?
Treaty Minister Michael Cullen puts it down to the leadership of paramount chief Tumu Te Heuheu and the iwi leaders, who wanted to move forward quickly. But they say it was Mr Cullen.
"I think it's the expertise that he brings, plus also an understanding of the issues, and without that support we might not have achieved what we have done today," says Mr Te Heuheu.
For nine years Mr Cullen has been labelled a scrooge in his role as Finance Minister, but when it comes to treaty settlements, he is quick to put pen to paper, claiming this week that rangatira were best at the front and lawyers at the back
But the opposition says Mr Cullen is merely a Mr Fix-it, and says these deals are simply a vote-winning exercise being rushed through in election year.
"That's simply been done to try and fend off the very strong support that the Maori Party is enjoying within Maori, and the fact that Labour has been so woeful in the past in this area," says John Key.
Mr Cullen denies that, and says he is not buying votes, instead that he enjoys putting the past wrongs, right: He is a former history lecturer.
One iwi leader told 3 News he is Labour's best weapon in the battle to win back fading Maori support, maybe even better than the Government's own Maori caucus.
"I think that's great generosity on their part," says Mr Cullen. "I find this interesting, it's a quite new challenge for me, and that's why I really enjoy sitting down and talking through, and try to understand what's going on."
It is obvious Maori see the opportunity that the Deputy Prime Minister and the man with the chequebook brings. He is high enough to get stuff done, and with the polls showing a possible new government by the end of the year, many want to get in before any change.
Some say Mr Cullen's legacy will be KiwiSaver and the Superfund but after this week, treaty settlements must now also be on that list.
Post a Comment
Before commenting, please take the time to read our moderation guide
(Won't be published)
Copyright © 2013 MediaWorks TV. All Rights Reserved.