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Govt Should Listen To Rotorua Lakes Petitioners

ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley welcomes the petition of 14,000 concerned New Zealand residents urging that the Rotorua Lakes remain in Crown ownership and says the Government must listen to the concerns.

"Treaty Negotiations Minister Margaret Wilson and Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia made offers to Te Arawa in May of this year that would vest the surface of the lake beds with Te Arawa and offer a formal role in the strategic management of the lakes. This offer was rejected by Te Arawa who appear to be seeking outright ownership.

"The Government must take a leadership role and end such Maori claims for ownership and control of resources such as air, water, the seabed, sunlight and the electro-magnetic spectrum.

"The Te Arawa ownership claim of the lake beds of 14 Rotorua lakes, together with the rivers and streams flowing into them, is just one of dozens of such claims around the country.

"Successive court decisions have ruled that natural water is vested with and held by the Crown on behalf of all New Zealanders. Despite these rulings Waitangi claims over water continues.

"The Crown reached agreement with Te Arawa on this issue in 1922. The agreement was reflected in the Native Land Claims and Native Land Adjustment Act 1922. Under the Act, the Crown was deemed to own the 14 lakes to which it applied and Te Arawa Maori Trust Board began to receive a fixed annuity of six thousand pounds from the Crown.

"Since the 1922 agreement the annuity has been increased once in 1977 to $18,000.

"If the Crown buckles to this claim then a dangerous precedent will have been set for parallel claims on all natural water bodies throughout the country in addition to the existing claim for Maori ownership of the foreshore and seabed to the outer limits of our coastal territorial waters.

"Local Bay of Plenty residents are concerned that their traditional free access to the Rotorua lakes for recreational purposes will be curtailed by the Crown buckling to this claim.

"I commend the petitioners for bringing this issue to the attention of Parliament" said Mr Shirley.

Ends


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