Hamish McNeilly reports:
After years of speculation, the Government and Ngai Tahu have confirmed a Treaty of Waitangi top-up clause is set to trigger, potentially pumping millions into the beleaguered South Island economy.
Both Ngai Tahu and Waikato-Tainui negotiated "insurance clauses" as part of their original settlements, entitling each iwi to a percentage of all future Treaty settlements once they exceeded $1 billion in 1994 dollar terms.
For the first time, the Government has acknowledged that amount could be reached this year, which would entitle Ngai Tahu to 16.1% and Waikato-Tainui 17% of all future Treaty settlements.
If one or more of the larger iwi settle this year, think Tuhoe and Ngati Tuwharetoa, the relativity clause will almost certainly be triggered. The relativity clause ensures Ngai Tahu and Tainui maintain their position relative to other iwi. It’s, as termed above, an insurance clause.
Under the principles of the Treaty, the Crown is obligated to preserve tribal relations. In practice this means the Crown should not give an unfair advantage to one or more iwi, hence the relativity clause. The clause ensures Ngai Tahu and Tainui remain at the top of the pecking order – at least until Tuhoe and Nga Puhi settle.
I’m surprised this story’s failed to gain more traction. When the clause is invoked, the consequences will be considerable. Many New Zealanders will resent the fact that some iwi can double dip, some tribes may resent this as well and the National government won’t want to this to stick to them. After all, it was the previous National government that negotiated the clause.
Ngai Tahu and Tainui will welcome the money – as anyone would. This is especially so given Ngai Tahu’s investment in the Christchurch rebuild and Tainui’s increased play for strategic assets.