Prime Minister John Key today promised his government would do all it could to settle outstanding Treaty of Waitangi claims by 2014.
"We are impatient to stop looking in the rear-view mirror at grievances past, and to instead shift our eyes to the challenges of our shared future as New Zealanders," he said in his Waitangi Day speech at Waitangi.
"I think it would be a betrayal of Kiwis' basic sense of decency to forget the past and the legitimate claims of iwi. But at the same time I am determined that New Zealand will not become stuck in that past."
Mr Key said the National Party campaigned on the 2014 goal, and he knew it would be a "considerable challenge".
He said there were 60 claims outstanding when National took office in 2008.
"If we were content to continue at the settlement pace of the previous Labour-led government, then we would only expect to resolve those claims at a rate of 1.6 a year. In other words, we would still be signing settlements in 2048.
"I won't accept that. We must do better. The government has the will and my sense is that iwi have the will as well."
Mr Key, who used most of his speech to emphasise the importance of settlement claims, explained the measures the government was taking to speed up the process.
"Our foot is firmly on the settlement pedal," he said.
Mr Key said he had instructed Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson to "get out there" and meet iwi, and work closely with them to conclude settlements.
"He has been doing exactly that...but make no mistake, the 2014 target the government has set for itself is ambitious," he said.
"Reaching our target will require much work and goodwill from the Government, from the New Zealanders we represent, and from the iwi with whom we are negotiating."
He said he was determined that every settlement would be full and final.
"I do not want to condemn our children and grandchildren to endlessly re-litigating these negotiations, due to sloppy work and inadequate attention to detail."
Mr Key said the debate around the Treaty of Waitangi had too often been characterised by extremism, and by people who had sought to weaken ties that united Maori and other New Zealanders.
"This Waitangi Day, as we reflect on our history as a nation, I could take the opportunity to outline the many times in New Zealand where we have strayed from the path of justice, or acted in ways which call our basic sense of fairness into question," he said.
"No one in this room would deny the existence of such dark moments in our history.
"But today is not the day to dwell on our failures. Let today be a day when we reflect on the prouder moments of our history, and on the growing unity that, for many decades, has underpinned the relationship between Maori and other New Zealanders."
Mr Key said there were cynics on both sides who damaged the goodwill needed to put an end to grievance and division, but he believed they represented a small minority of New Zealanders.