'Easily we call him our friend' - praise for Chris Finlayson from iwi leaders, political opponents

Outgoing Treaty Negotiations minister Chris Finlayson is leaving with the respect of iwi leaders and political opponents alike after signing off 59 Treaty settlements, a record during anyone's time in the portfolio.

Mr Finlayson helped complete 59 settlements and his work is respected across the spectrum. Source: 1 NEWS

After nine years in the role, Mr Finlayson is handing over his Treaty Negotiations portfolio to former Labour leader Andrew Little.

The new Minister for Maori Development, Nanaia Mahuta, said Mr Finlayson absolutely understood the complexities of New Zealand history.

"And how he applied that knowledge to his portfolio, and his way of managing a number of challenging issues, was exceptional." 

Tuhoe negotiator Tamati Kruger said Mr Finlayson "has an ability to connect emotionally as well as intellectually with what's going on and he has a very fair assessment of how things can proceed towards a settlement".  

"Easily we call him our friend."

For his part, Mr Finlayson, said the role has been an education for him.

"I call it the education of a public man because I've learned so much about my country, about it's history and about some of the challenges it faces," he said. 

"I consider that I've been the most fortunate person in the entire government because I've always got what I wanted." 

He faced criticism over how he dealt with cross claims, but the Tuhoe settlement and Parihaka apology remain highlights. 

The only large historical settlement left for Labour to complete is the Ngapuhi deal and the outgoing minister is watching with interest.

"On the one hand you've got Willow Jean Prime from Kotahitanga who's in Parliament now. And on the other side you've got Shane Jones whose very close to Tuhoronuku. So it'll be interesting to see them work through those issues," Mr Finlayson said.

His legacy though is moving Aotearoa New Zealand towards an honest future, set free from the past.