Crown Forestry Rental Trust was established under a Trust Deed and works to expedite settlement of Māori claims against the Crown for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Treaty of Waitangi
The Treaty of Waitangi is acknowledged as New Zealand’s ‘founding document’, agreeing principles for the relationship between Māori and the Crown. The Treaty was signed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands on 6 February 1840. By year’s end, over 500 Māori throughout the country had signed the Treaty.
Breaches of the Treaty
The Crown has acknowledged that many of the Crown’s subsequent acquisitions of Māori land were flawed. The Crown also accepts that loss of land may have had a harmful effect on Māori social and economic development.
Some Māori and the Crown have subsequently agreed to address these grievances through the Waitangi Tribunal.
The Waitangi Tribunal
- Was established by the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 and amendments.
- Is a permanent commission of inquiry.
- Is charged with inquiring into Māori claims relating to the Treaty of Waitangi.
- Comprises up to 16 members, who are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Māori Affairs.
Claims to the Waitangi Tribunal
Authoritative information about the claims process is on the Waitangi Tribunal website.
Settlement of Claims
In the Crown’s view, a settlement:
- Is an agreement between the Crown and a Māori claimant group
Finally settles all of that group’s historical claims against the Crown, and
- Is detailed in a Deed of Settlement.
The Office of Treaty Settlements negotiates on behalf of the Crown. The Office’s website provides information about ‘what is a settlement’, focusing on the concept of ‘redress’, which recognises the claimant group’s historical grievances and focuses on restoring in some measure, the relationship between the claimant group and the Crown, and to contributing to the group’s economic development.
Contemporary claims, which relate to Crown actions or omission after 21 September 1992, are dealt with through separate processes.
Crown Forestry Rental Trust’s Role
The Trust uses interest earned from forest rental proceeds to assist eligible claimants to prepare, present and negotiate claims, which involve, or could involve, Crown forest licensed lands before the Waitangi Tribunal or through the direct negotiations process managed by the Office of Treaty Settlements.
The Trust provides assistance by:
- Providing advice on all matters concerned with these processes
- Funding specific settlement-related activities necessary for these processes, and
- Planning and funding any research that is required to support a claim.
Crown forest licensed land and its Annual Rental Fees are held in trust until the rightful owner is determined through either Waitangi Tribunal recommendation or direct negotiation. The current status of Crown forest licensed lands can be seen here.
Settling Treaty claims is the responsibility of Māori and the Crown. The Trust cannot settle claims, nor can it return assets until the rightful ownership is determined.