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Opposition hypocritical over customary rights

Opposition hypocritical over customary rights

“The hypocrisy of the opposition, over the customary rights of tangata whenua, is quite alarming,” said Associate Maori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia.

“National and ACT party spokespeople want to prevent any inquiry into whether or not tangata whenua have customary rights to sea bed and foreshore. They want the government to overrule a unanimous decision by the Court of Appeal.

“In a statement headed ‘One Standard of Citizenship for the Coast’, National’s Nick Smith says the Maori Land Court was never intended to to deal with issues of foreshore and seabed that have an extensive impact on the rights of all New Zealanders.

“Well the Court of Appeal has just found that Nick Smith is wrong, and the Maori Land Court does have that jurisdiction.

“The Native Land Court was set up precisely to have an extensive impact on the rights of all New Zealanders, by turning customary land rights into a title that the settlers could acquire. The Land Court was strongly opposed by tangata whenua, and today the Crown, including the former National Government, acknowledges the establishment and operations of the Court as a breach of the Treaty.

“The Court destroyed customary title to almost every inch of land. Now that the Court might recognise tangata whenua claims, Nick Smith wants to stop it before it starts. So much for due process, and one standard of citizenship!

“The ACT party’s various positions are even more bizarre. A month ago, Stephen Franks said ACT ‘stand behind our principles. We have always said the Treaty’s property rights are the same for all New Zealanders. Confiscation of property rights without compensation is always wrong.’

“Stephen said the nationalisation of petroleum was the confiscation of a property right that was protected by the Treaty. Now his Deputy Leader Ken Shirley is saying that the Crown should be consistent and confiscate the seabed and foreshore as well – in case other New Zealanders are unduly worried by legal confusion and conflict. Does Ken think two wrongs make a right?

“The only consistent thing about the opposition is their scaremongering. Their hysteria is the very reason why Maori have doubts about a New Zealand-based Supreme Court – people like Nick Smith, Stephen Franks and Ken Shirley cloud the issues and try to interfere with careful judgement.

“The simple fact is that the Appeal Court has found that the customary rights of tangata whenua have not been extinguished, and therefore the Land Court has the power to inquire into who holds the title.

“This is a due process of law. There is no need for anxiety. If the claims of tangata whenua are upheld, there will no doubt be negotiations with the Crown. But that is some time off.

“In the meantime, let’s create win-win situations. People with interests in the seabed and foreshore might find this is a good time to get into discussions with tangata whenua about possibilities for joint ventures and partnerships, instead of wasting time and energy trying to defeat our peoples’ legitimate claims,” she said.

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