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Maori Myth-Making Grows From PM Dithering

Maori Myth-Making Grows From PM Dithering

Friday 11 Jul 2003 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Treaty of Waitangi & Maori Affairs

Helen Clark's dithering has fertilised the growth of customary property claims to beaches - from a fanciful gleam in greedy eyes, to the mythical proportions fuelling tomorrow's Hauraki hui, ACT New Zealand Maori Affairs Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"The Prime Minister almost had it right four days after the Appeal Court decision, which kicked the crisis off - there is no place in New Zealand for entrenching privileged access to public land by ethnic or race inheritance qualification," Mr Franks said.

"But, since her backdown, there has been a predictable explosion in Maori expectations. It is largely unsupported by the Appeal Court decision. It is the avoidable result of a complete loss of nerve and leadership by the Prime Minister, and a lack of preparation by Margaret Wilson.

"Their bluster after the judgment - then backdown and negotiation - achieved nothing but to tell Maori they have the Government panicked. Even reasonable Maori must suspect that the Crown thinks it's guilty, and that claimants were right all along. The desperation to negotiate must be seen as a fear of letting the Courts work out exactly what has been lost.

"Ms Clark and Ms Wilson should have made it clear, well before the Court decision - and certainly immediately afterwards - that there would be never be an outcome that created or allowed race discrimination over foreshore and seabed, and no customary title, and no muddy compromise, shared ownership or guardianship. They can satisfy no one in the long run. Guardianship will be interpreted as acknowledgment of the merit in Maori claims, and taken as a down payment toward the next stage - normal ownership rights.

"If, ethnic discrimination in access to beaches and foreshore is not in the national interest, there is absolutely no reason why she should not rule it out immediately and forever, as she did with the oil and gas claim, on national interest grounds.

"Ms Clark should also have upheld principles - access to the courts would not be denied Maori, but a compensation claim would only be open to those who proved (with evidence tested to proper justice standards) that a customary interest had been lost to the Crown.

"The court cannot take just the parts of law and custom that suit the claimants. In both common law and Maori custom, customary use claims are lost through simple non-use. There are no property rights where there has been no exclusivity. Claimants should also meet the full costs of the legal process, including the costs to the other side, if they lost.

"It is a failure of political spine and skill that has led to this situation. Ms Clark and Ms Wilson must have known the Court decision was due, and should have been prepared. ACT gave a principled position as soon as we read the judgement. The Government has still not explained why it won't fight this in the courts, and why it won't simply state that the only remedy, if any is found to be deserved, will be money, never racist privilege," Mr Franks said


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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