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Conservation Minister rejects TOKM claims

7 July 2000

Media Statement

Conservation Minister rejects TOKM claims of failure to consult on proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee said from Melbourne today she was "amazed" at reported comments from Te Ohu Kai Moana Commissioner Archie Taiaroa complaining about a failure to consult over the New Zealand government's support for a South Pacific whale sanctuary.

"I met only last week with Mr Taiaroa's delegation from the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission (TOKM) on this matter," Ms Lee said.

"At the time, Mr Taiaroa assured me that the Maori Fisheries Commission was not advocating a return to commercial whaling but that they did want assurances that Maori customary rights to access to the material from stranded whales, such as bone for carving purposes, would be preserved," she said.

"Mr Taiaroa claimed I was wrong in stating that other Pacific people supported the proposed whale sanctuary," said Ms Lee.

"Mr Taiaroa might not be aware that in August 1998, the South Pacific Forum voted in support of progressing the sanctuary."

"South Pacific observers were accorded speaking rights at the International Whaling Commission annual meeting in Adelaide earlier this week, where I and my Australian counterpart jointly proposed the South Pacific whale sanctuary," she said. "They spoke in support of the sanctuary."

Ms Lee said she remained "disappointed" that the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission was pressing ahead with its plans to host a pro-whaling international conference at Nelson later this year.

"The Fisheries Commission itself could do a bit of soul-searching on the issue of consultation, in my view," she said.

"It is my understanding that their pro-whaling stance was not debated at their own recent annual meeting."

Ms Lee said there were a number of indigenous peoples throughout the world who exercised a customary harvest, which was supported by the International Whaling Commission.

"New Zealand's support for a South Pacific whale sanctuary is based on the principle that if we support the protection of these great marine mammals' feeding grounds in the southern ocean through an existing sanctuary, it is important that we protect them in their important breeding grounds in the South Pacific.

ENDS

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