When it comes to settlement negotiations for Treaty of Waitangi claims, the question of overlapping claims and how to deal with these is often inescapable.

Overlapping claims occur when two or more claimant groups stake claims over the same area of land that is the subject of historical Treaty claims (also known as “cross claims”).

The government’s guide to Treaty claims and negotiations with the Crown, Ka tika ā muri, ki tika ā mua: Healing the past, building a future, makes it clear that overlapping claims must be addressed to the satisfaction of the Crown before it will complete settlement involving any of the sites or assets concerned.

What this means in practical terms for any given settlement will vary. The Crown does not attempt to define precise boundaries or resolve the question of which claimant group has the predominant interest in a general area through this process.

The Crown may make a decision on overlapping claims itself, but only where this cannot be resolved between groups; taking matters out of the hands of the negotiating party, and focussing on what is essentially a balancing act of the interests involved.

Claimant groups should try to deal with overlapping claims as soon as possible to ensure that delays in the settlement process (including through challenge to a settlement package by another claimant group) are avoided.

Having a clearly defined area of interest set out in your claimant group’s Deed of Mandate (including both core areas and areas which may overlap with those of other claimant groups) and establishing a process by which to reach agreement or resolve issues arising with those other claimant groups, will likely be of assistance in avoiding or reducing delays.

As we have said previously, the value of good negotiations preparation should not be underestimated. If you would like to know more about the negotiations process, please contact us.