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New Zealand Parliament signs record-breaking Maori land settlement

[JURIST] The New Zealand government and several Maori groups signed a deed of settlement Wednesday worth nearly NZ $196 million to resolve certain indigenous claims concerning land taken by British settlers in the 19th century. The deed of settlement agreement, known informally as the Treelords deal [settlement back-grounder, PDF], restores land rights and nearly 176,000 hectares of forest previously appropriated by the New Zealand government, including rental income from the land, to the Central North Island Forest Iwi Collective [official website], an organization made up of Maori iwi, or social units. Under the settlement, negotiated by the Office of Treaty Settlements [official website], all rental and other income from the land will be held in a newly-established trust holding company, whose shareholders are the Maori iwis. The Treelords deal also gives the Collective the ability to acquire government-owned properties through deferred selection or rights of first refusal. AP has more. The New Zealand Herald has local coverage.

Maori claims to the historical Central North Island forests are based on breaches of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi [text] by the New Zealand government. The treaty established the sovereignty of the British crown in New Zealand, but guaranteed Maori groups continued use of their land and natural resources. The Maori have fought for remedies for land loss and unequal treatment suffered pursuant to the Treaty since soon after its signing in 1840. Under the Treelords deal, the government of New Zealand officially apologizes for breaches of the Treaty. BBC News has more.

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