The Waikato-Tainui and Ngai Tahu iwi are poised to claim top-ups on their 1990s Treaty of Waitangi settlements because of a relativity clause that gets triggered when the so-called fiscal envelope is exceeded.
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson's progress with claims means there's some $1.79 billion completed or in the pipeline, including the $170 million settlement with Tuhoe announced this week.
Tainui and Ngai Tahu settled for $170 million apiece but were granted top-up clauses that would ensure Tainui received 17 per cent of all settlements and Ngai Tahu got 16.1 per cent.
That clause would come into play if the Crown paid out more than $1b in 1994 dollar terms under the fiscal envelope.
That works out at roughly $1.54b today, using the Reserve Bank's inflation calculator, though it doesn't account for the timing of various settlements.
"The pace (of settlements) has picked up for sure," Associate Professor Peter Adds, the head of Maori studies at Victoria University, told BusinessDesk.
Still, "they had aspirations for a 2014 date (for completing all historic grievances) but I don't think there's any chance of meeting that."
The figures for claims settled or in the pipeline are based on settlement terms published on the Office of Treaty Settlement's website.
That's made up by 30 completed settlements of some $1.09b, 12 signed deeds of settlement worth about $201.2m, four deeds waiting for ratification by iwi of $143.9m, and 16 agreements in principle of about $362.8m.
A/Prof Adds, who is also a negotiator for Te Ati Awa ki Taranaki, says the Crown will probably have to pay out on the relativity clauses, which it offered to the heavyweight iwi to get them over the line and hasn't put on the table to anyone else.
"They are definitely trying to keep under a billion dollars" through cultural redress, such as land management rights, which doesn't count to the limit, he said.
The Crown will give its annual update to Tainui and Ngai Tahu next month on where they stand on the relativity clause, based on the past financial year, meaning the clause is likely be triggered in the 2013 year.