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English “grossly irresponsible” - Cullen

English “grossly irresponsible” - Cullen

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen today described as “grossly irresponsible” claims by Bill English relating to the seabeds and foreshore issue.

He was referring to a speech by Mr English alleging that the government planned to allow Maori to gain private title to beaches and the foreshore and warning farmers that the same law could be used to gain access to farmland.

“This is desperate scaremongering and reflects no credit on either Mr English or the National Party,” Dr Cullen said.

“Despite some mistaken media reports to the contrary, there has been no back-down by the government from the comments of the Prime Minister and Attorney General at the post-cabinet press conference on 23 June and from my later statement on 26 June.

“This identified the essential elements of the government position as: The government will act to uphold rights of public access to, and use of, the foreshore and seabed; The government will also act to protect Maori customary rights, to the extent they are not already; A group of senior ministers will be discussing with the Maori caucus, which has an electoral mandate to represent Maori, how to reconcile these two interests; The objective is to acknowledge and protect Maori customary rights while also protecting the public interest, including the ability to enjoy traditional access to the foreshore; The government is looking for a win-win solution where both sides feel that justice has been done; Resolving these issues will require legislation, but the exact form of that has yet to be determined; Work is being done on a statutory framework which ensures that private, exclusive titles are not created over what has always been regarded as the public domain; Customary rights will be provided for in that framework. The question is how they, and the broader public’s rights and interests, can be reconciled; With goodwill between the Treaty partners, the government believes an outcome that is fair to all can be achieved.

“The government is still formulating a response to this issue. Any proposals we come up with will reflect these principles and will be consulted on widely – not just with hapu and iwi but also with other interested parties, including environmental and recreational groups and local government,” Dr Cullen said.

“It is important for us as a nation to get this right. If National is not grown up enough to be part of the solution, they should at least try to avoid being part of the problem.”

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