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The dust of conflict

Richard Worth National Justice Spokesman

1 September 2003

The dust of conflict

If judges enter the political arena, they should not complain if the dust is kicked up in their faces, says National's Justice spokesman Richard Worth.

"It is wholly inappropriate for retired Maori Land Court judge Heta Hingston - who opened the way for Maori to establish customary title over the foreshore in a 1997 ruling - to venture into political debate on the very issues he ruled upon."

Mr Worth was responding to comments made by Judge Hingston at a national hui on the foreshore and seabed issue at the weekend.

"There is a growing lack of confidence in the Maori Land Court and Judge Hingston does not add to the debate with comments that are calculated and political," says Mr Worth.

"Those who take on the responsibilities of being a judge need to remain remote from the political process.

"If they choose to break that rule, they not only run a personal risk, but also run a risk of damaging the reputation and integrity of the Courts in which they sit.

"There is a view that the Maori Land Court, which used to have a reputation for objectivity in decision-making, is now determined on an activist path. This is particularly significant when it is proposed that it is to have a new role of determining customary rights to the foreshore and seabed.

"The Court needs to tread carefully if it wishes to retain its reputation as an independent arbiter on Maori issues," says Mr Worth.


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