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Govt must stop dragging heels on forestry deal

Govt must stop dragging heels on forestry deal

The delay in the Ngati Awa Treaty Settlement because of access concerns sets a dangerous precedent according to the National Party spokeswoman for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Georgina te Heuheu.

"This settlement is about the return of property rights wrongly taken and the Government must steer clear of putting Ngati Awa in a double jeopardy position," she says.

"For more than a decade forestry and other interests have been working with ongoing uncertainty in the central North Island forests, because long term ownership issues have not been resolved," says Mrs te Heuheu.

"Now just when Ngati Awa is poised to conclude their settlement after years of negotiations, the CNIFP (Central North Island Forestry Partnership) raises concerns which were canvassed when cutting rights were sold in 1995, and since.

"As far back as then, Maori sought to have the issue resolved.

"Banks and potential purchasers were left in no doubt they would need to negotiate access rights when land transferred to Maori ownership.

"While important, this issue is not new or recent, why hasn't the Government resolved them already?

Mrs te Heuheu commented that Maori had long ago signalled their wish to be more than just landlords in the CNIFP.

"Their intention is to come in on the ground floor and invest in processing and value added products, giving them a prime opportunity to add to current Maori forestry interests and further contribute to New Zealand's multi-million dollar forest exports.

"I'm advocating a more co-operative approach on the part of CNIFP which I'm sure would bring a positive response from Ngati Awa at the appropriate time," says Mrs te Heuheu.

"It's not in Ngati Awa's interest to be anything other than cooperative, and they know this.

"The Government has a clear duty to ensure that it does not disadvantage Ngati Awa any further by this untimely delay," Mrs te Heuheu says.

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