Travelling the widths and breadths of New Zealand has been an eye-opening experience for Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Chris Finlayson. A position that has seen the boy originally from Wellington step foot deep into the heart of Māoridom.
He is the face of the government that has delivered numerous apologies on behalf of the Crown for the historical grievances against Māori right across the country.
“It's been a wonderful education of a public man I've been very fortunate, other people have had a number of ministerial portfolios and the Prime Minister has been extraordinarily generous, I've learned so much,” says Finlayson.
After the 2014 election, he was appointed as the Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations where he has heard and felt the pain of Māori as they look to put the past behind them.
“They're all different, they all turn on their particular facts, I'll never forget the signing in Taranaki which was when members of the iwi performed a poi that hadn't been done for 50 years that talked about the rape by the soliders at Parihaka, deeply emotional,” says Finlayson.
Though the National 2008 election promise to settle all Treaty of Waitangi claims by 2014 wasn't quite achieved, it has been pushed out to 2017 with more than 70 claims settled to date.
“The fact of the matter is, there are some people out there that don't like but the vast majority of New Zealanders accept that we're doing something pretty special,” says Finlayson.
He also says that stepping into the heart of Tūhoe and seeing the settlement process completed in 2013 was another stand out experience.