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Claim PM told Tuhoe park deal was possible

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Wellington, May 18 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key says he does not remember telling Tuhoe that a deal giving them ownership of Urewera National Park was a possibility.

The iwi and the Maori Party were outraged when Mr Key announced last week the park would not be handed over, and he has been accused of pulling out of the deal at the last moment.

Labour leader Phil Goff asked Mr Key during question time in Parliament today about a meeting between Tuhoe and Mr Key in March: "Does he stand by his statement to Tuhoe negotiators that handing over ownership of the Ureweras to the tribe was quote 'complex but workable' which the negotiators are adamant that he said to them in his office?"

The answer was no; "because I have no recollection of saying it".

Mr Goff also asked if handing over ownership was the preferred option of the Cabinet Committee on Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations which Mr Key chairs. Mr Key said it was not.

Tuhoe previously said that the committee had considered the draft deal including the transfer.

Progressive leader Jim Anderton also today said Mr Key had previously stated he did not agree with the committee's proposal and removed it from Cabinet's agenda.

Mr Key yesterday said Tuhoe had never been told that an agreement in principle was acceptable to the Government and the reason the proposal was before the committee was simply a lack of other options.

"There were genuine attempts by the Crown to put up all sorts of alternatives. As those alternatives were rejected by Tuhoe, it left the negotiating team in a position where there was only one option.

"So they had to come to Cabinet and say 'do you want to take it?'... that never meant it was acceptable to the Crown."

The Government argued the park could not be returned because of the precedent it set for future settlements with Tuwharetoa, Taranaki and Whanganui and, possibly, Ngai Tahu.

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira today asked Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson if there was any correspondence showing iwi wanted national parks as part of settlements.

"I have not received correspondence from those iwi," Mr Finlayson said.

"But I meet with iwi on a regular basis, and some iwi have raised informally these issues with me. I expect these issues will be raised more formally by some iwi as Treaty negotiations progress."

Mr Harawira said there were precedents already set and said the Government was setting a new policy direction but Mr Finlayson said that wasn't the case.

Mr Harawira asked if Crown law, Treasury and the Department of Conservation had already worked through legal issues for the deal.

"And if so can he please tell the House what the additional information was about the impact on settlements that caused the abrupt cancellation of the Tuhoe deal at the last minute."

Mr Finlayson declined to.

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