Right of First Refusal clause should mean what it says

The Green Party is calling on the Government to front up to iwi after learning that, going right back to the Ngāi Tahu settlement in 1997, the Right of First Refusal (RFR) clause in Treaty settlements has actually meant right of first refusal for charities, not iwi.

The Green Party is calling on the Government to front up to iwi after learning that, going right back to the Ngāi Tahu settlement in 1997, the Right of First Refusal (RFR) clause in Treaty settlements has actually meant right of first refusal for charities, not iwi.

It’s long been assumed that when a Treaty settlement has been reached with an iwi, sections of Crown land may become subject to a Right of First Refusal (RFR) in favour of that iwi. An RFR is a long-term option for iwi to purchase or lease Crown-owned land, and will generally remain in place for 50 to 170 years (in some cases longer).

As part of their submission on their claims settlement bill, Tauranga-based iwi Ngāti Pūkenga asked for the ‘RFR – Disposal for charitable purposes’ provision to be removed. In response, the Greens put this on the agenda of the Māori Affairs Select Committee and learnt that this has been a standard provision in all settlement legislation.

“The Government must front up to iwi and offer to retrospectively remove this outrageous provision from the RFR clause in their settlements,” Green Party Māori development spokesperson Marama Davidson said.

“Right of first refusal should be for iwi, as most people have assumed is the case - the fact that it isn’t undermines the mana and durability of all Treaty settlements.

“Catherine Delahunty MP and I met with Minister Finlayson, who conceded to us that there is no legal or policy reason for the RFR exemption for charities to be included in settlements.

“We called on him to do the right thing and scrap it, a position supported by the Māori Affairs Select Committee, who have just reported on the issue to Parliament.

“The bottom line is that iwi should have right of first refusal over land in their settlements. This provision is a breach of faith on the part of the Crown; they’ve stuffed up, and so they have a responsibility to fix it.

“This is a perfect example of why the Greens have always said that Treaty settlements cannot be full and final, as unintended consequences and new situations will arise.

“We don’t want Te Tiriti ‘settled’; we want Te Tiriti truly honoured and implemented at every level,” Ms Davidson said.

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