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Minister dismisses poll report

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Chris Finlayson
Chris Finlayson

Wellington, May 19 NZPA - Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has dismissed a report that the Tuhoe treaty settlement was aborted after a poll of North Shore voters indicated the Government was conceding too much to Maori.

Prime Minister John Key announced last Monday that Te Urewera National Park was not going to be put into Tuhoe ownership, a decision that was made before Cabinet discussed it.

Tuhoe believed an agreement in principle was about to be signed, and had called a hui for the occasion.

In Parliament today Labour MP Maryan Street asked Mr Finlayson whether the decision had been "influenced by focus groups conducted on the North Shore during the week or weekend prior to the paper going to the Cabinet, as reported by the Whakatane Beacon?"

Mr Finlayson: "My advice to that honourable member is not to rely on title tattle in local rags. The important thing is that this government is committed to a just and durable settlement with Tuhoe that serves the interests of both parties and we are determined to achieve that."

The newspaper report quoted a Tuhoe spokeswoman as saying the iwi recently learnt that Mr Key was involved in a telephone conference called by Transport Minister Steven Joyce, involving senior ministers but excluding Mr Finlayson, before the decision was announced by the prime minister.

Those involved learnt a poll of North Shore voters indicated the Government was conceding too much to Maori.

The spokeswoman also gave details of the arrangements put in place by the Crown and Tuhoe to mark the occasion, which included the engraving of 15 Parker pens bearing the inscription Tuhoe-Crown AIP (agreement in principle), Waimana, 2010.

She said 30 Ministry of Justice officials had booked into Whakatane motels and deputy solicitor-general Matthew Palmer and ministry chief executive Belinda Clark were to attend, as were officials from the Crown Forestry Rental Trust.

Representatives from Tuwharetoa, Ngapuhi and Tainui were also invited.

Tuhoe budgeted $160,000 for the event and nine marquees had been ordered.

Whakatane motel Tuscany Villas confirmed a booking for eight rooms for government officials was cancelled after Mr Key said giving Tuhoe ownership of the park was not on the table and was unacceptable to the Government.

The report said Tuhoe negotiators were to meet with the Crown's chief negotiator, John Wood, last night to discuss whether a settlement could be salvaged.

(Seeking further comment from minister's office).

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