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Why Wait On Oil And Gas?

Why Wait On Oil And Gas?

If the Waitangi Tribunal announces that Maori lost their oil and gas rights in breach of the Treaty, it is right - but so did every landowner, ACT New Zealand Treaty Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"The Treaty promised classical 19^th Century property rights. In Britain, ownership of land included the coal beneath it and, by inference, oil and gas. Under the Treaty, as Maori transferred land, the oil and gas went with it," Mr Franks said.

"When Labour nationalised every New Zealand landowner's rights to oil and gas on their land, it was a breach of the Treaty for all of them - because Article Three promised all New Zealanders the same rights and privileges under British law.

"The Government should answer the Tribunal immediately, to ensure this sore does not fester and poison relations between Maori and pakeha. There are three principled responses that the Government could make, and one unprincipled.

The first and most principled - but expensive and unrealistic - would be to apologise and compensate the descendants of all landowners whose rights were nationalised without compensation in 1938.

"The second would be to say `so what? That was then, this is now. Everyone was treated alike, and it is too late to try to value what was lost, and compensate'.

"The third would be to say `rubbish, nobody in 1840 ever contemplated property rights so strong that the Crown could not nationalise valuable things underground if they were suddenly found to be valuable, just as it had claimed gold for itself for hundreds of years.'

"The fourth is what the Labour Government will most likely do. Having no clear principles, Labour will dither and equivocate. To pakeha, it will try to sound tough and reassuring. At the same time, it will do tawdry deals to buy off the Treaty industry. In a year or two - after most New Zealanders are tired of hearing about it, and have got used to the idea of some corrupt concession - a Bill will come into Parliament full of weasel and fudge words.

"The bottom line will be millions more taken from schools, hospitals, defence and policing, to top up the lifestyles of people taught to find complaining and claiming more rewarding than work," Mr Franks said.

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