Settling Treaty Claims: The Formation of Policy on Treaty of Waitangi Claims in the Pioneering Years, 1988-1998
For the past quarter-century the New Zealand government has negotiated with Māori groupings to find ways of compensating for the Crown’s historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. The negotiations take place between mandated claimant negotiators and officials who represent the executive arm of government; the resultant settlements are then endorsed by legislation that declares them to be ‘full and final’ resolutions of historical grievances. This thesis analyses the way New Zealand governments conceived, introduced and implemented policies to address the claims during the pioneering years 1988–1998. The foundational policies worked out in this decade bedded-in the Treaty claims settlement processes which are now nearing their end. Through examining official archives, the thesis finds that these processes initially emerged as policy-driven responses to a combination of factors, such as the broad context of the ‘Māori Renaissance’, social shifts in understanding the past, legal cases and political pressure from iwi. The thesis goes on to explore several years of experimental negotiations and policy formulation which culminated in the Crown’s presentation in 1994 of both a suite of draft policies intended to offer a comprehensive approach to the negotiations process and a notional quantum of $1 billion to settle all historical claims (the ‘fiscal envelope’). It demonstrates that while this package was introduced to shape and contain the emergent settlement mechanisms and their outcomes, policies continued to be modified in highly significant ways. The major settlements negotiated with Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu, in particular, led to new developments which established the broad shapes of Treaty settlements, and key aspects of them, from the end of the twentieth century onwards. Over 1988–1998, then, the Treaty settlements process transitioned from ad-hoc development of policies and arrangements into an entrenched system, yet one that was flexible enough to change in the course of negotiations with new claimant groups.