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Oil & Gas Claim Valid, But Not Justified

Oil & Gas Claim Valid, But Not Justified

The Waitangi Tribunal's finding, that Maori ownership in petroleum was a basic facet of land ownership and property rights created by the Treaty in 1840, is almost indisputable, ACT New Zealand Treaty Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"But that ownership passed with the land. After Labour's 1937 nationalisation, no landowner could benefit from oil and gas. This may have been a Treaty breach, but the losers were the landowners at the time. Little of that land was then held by Maori, so their claim is no more justified than a claim by any other landowner who lost rights then," Mr Franks said.

"ACT says confiscation of property rights without compensation is always wrong - whether it is oil and gas in 1937, or under the Resource Management Act today. But ACT has no problem saying history should not be rewritten at this distance. The important thing is to stop ongoing Treaty breaches. The RMA confiscates property rights of Maori and pakeha now.

"Whether it knows it or not, the Government has just ripped the wings off the Treaty. Labour says it doesn't have to meet the claim because the confiscation was in the national interest - funnily enough, so too did the settler governments which took Maori `waste lands' for farming and settlement.

"When Helen Clark said a Treaty claim could be defeated by the national interest, it was plain she hadn't thought it through - I could hardly believe it. ACT knew the Tribunal could hardly rule that the oil and gas confiscation was not a breach. Why hadn't she prepared a better excuse for saying `no'? When Minister Margaret Wilson today affirmed that the national interest could override a Treaty claim, she signalled the beginning of the end of the Treaty industry.

"New Zealanders will now want to know what national interest is served by claims for rights to native plants and animals, the foreshore in breach of Queens Chain Reserve requirements, the radio spectrum - and even to the spurious `partnership' veto rights that are trashing electoral democracy throughout New Zealand.

"None of these things are in the national interest. Now that the Government has admitted that national interest can trump the Treaty, it is time to end claims that have nothing to do with property rights or the same law for all New Zealanders. The Treaty can no longer be used to justify putting racist separatism into the law.

"Today should be a day of great celebration for all fair-minded New Zealanders. The Waitangi Tribunal's upholding of a valid claim for oil and gas has finally spurred the Government into denouncing its own myth - that the Treaty overrode all our other rights.

"When the national interest overrides Treaty claims, many - if not most - will be worthless. The Treaty will no longer warp our legislation," Mr Franks said.

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