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Fisheries Settlement Trashes Property Rights

Fisheries Settlement Trashes Property Rights

It is unlikely that ACT New Zealand will vote for the $700 million allocation deal that Fisheries Minister Hodgson will soon put before Parliament, ACT New Zealand Treaty Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"It turns Treaty damages into race-defined long-term welfare benefits. Pakeha, who think this is just the end of an amusing little Maori squabble, should think again," Mr Franks said.

"The allocation should only go to iwi, which actually lost fisheries through breach of Treaty guarantees, according to who lost what. Instead, some beneficiaries will be descendants of Maori who lost nothing. Many were loyalist kupapa, who helped the Crown against rebellious claimant iwi. Treaty settlements are only justified as damages for loss of property rights promised by the Treaty, for proven wrongdoing by the Crown.

"Settlements are supposed to uphold the property rights, in Article Two, by making the Crown pay for unlawful expropriations. Instead this deal does fresh wrong. Under duress of otherwise never getting their money, rightful claimants have had to agree to a substantial portion of their compensation being siphoned off to folk who never had the relevant fishing rights in the first place. Urban Maori groups are obviously not entitled, but have been successful, and tribes with small coastlines have been equally opportunist.

"I don't blame them for envy, in view of the deep sea fishing quota windfall. The reasoning for deep-sea claims does not stand up in hindsight, but that is no reason to allow others to muscle in on the windfall. ACT will not go along with it.

"As a precedent, the deal could guarantee that Treaty settlements will not be final, because it creates new wrongs.

"Direct and current blame must go on the Labour Maori caucus - which had the Commissioners changed, to coerce the rightful claimants to give in.

"Worse still, the Government never responded to appeals for guidance. Commissioners were simply told to work out what to do with the vast asset suddenly given to them. The entire Treaty claim process is now being discredited. Despite years of groping for Treaty principles to guide settlements, the Government simply refuses to say what they are.

"In cunning or cowardice, Parliament refers to `principles', rather than the clear words of the Treaty. The Courts have been left to work out what they might be, and have made a complete hash of it. The most obvious and powerful principle has been staring them in the face - Article Two's property rights. It is also the most necessary, given National and Labour's collusion to keep property rights out of Sir Geoffrey Palmer's Bill of Rights Act. Instead we have had empty terms like `Treaty partnership'.

"This deal now puts the property right protections of Article Two into a glass case, treating them as a quaint history, irrelevant even to Maori. That is a loss to both Maori and pakeha.

"Even if it is just the outcome of negotiation exhaustion, future generations will not accept that as an excuse. A brown face alone should not give someone a share in Treaty settlement money. That is racism, it is patronising and it will probably not help - however well meant it may be.

"The windfall may have the same disastrous effect on some undeserving recipient iwi as we have from non-work-tested unemployment benefits. Or it could be worse; affecting iwi with weak internal governance like a loaf of stale bread affects a flock of seagulls.

"The Treaty process should not be about political deals. It should reaffirm for all New Zealanders the respect for property rights and law promised in the Treaty of Waitangi," Mr Franks said.

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