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Two new treaty bills pass first hurdle

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/05/2016

Two new Treaty of Waitangi settlement bills have passed their first hurdle in parliament, including one that gives the iconic Whanganui River its own legal identity.

Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) bill addresses the historical grievance of Whanganui iwi in relation to the Whanganui River, which the iwi has been seeking to protect for over a century.

"This bill recognises the deep spiritual connection between iwi and the river and creates a strong platform for their involvement in the future of the river," Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said.

"The legislation will establish a new legal framework for the Whanganui River which recognises the river as an indivisible whole from the mountains to the sea, known as Te Awa Tupua.

"Te Awa Tupua will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person."

Financial redress amounting to $80 million is also included in the settlement, along with an additional $1m contribution to establish the legal framework for the river.

The Ngai Te Rangi and Nga Potiki Claims Settlement bill will give effect to the individual settlements of the historical Treaty of Waitangi claims of Ngai Te Rangi and Nga Potiki.

"This bill provides important redress and acknowledgement of past wrongs for these groups," Mr Finlayson said.

"Today brings Ngai Te Rangi and Nga Potiki a step closer to a stronger future."

The settlement includes financial and commercial redress of $26.5m for Ngai Te Rangi, $3m for Nga Potiki, rights of first refusal and the opportunity to purchase specified Crown properties.

Cultural redress includes the vesting of two island reserves and statutory acknowledgements over several streams in the Tauranga area.

Both bills passed their first readings in parliament on Wednesday morning and will now be referred to the Maori Affairs select committee.

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