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Time For Court To Clear The Air

Time For Court To Clear The Air

Monday 9 Feb 2004 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Treaty of Waitangi & Maori Affairs

ACT New Zealand Maori Affairs and Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today urged judges to clarify exactly what was meant by their Court of Appeal seabed and foreshore judgment last year.

"Extra judicial clarifying statements by judges are extremely rare, but not unprecedented. If ever the interests of New Zealanders called for judges to puncture false political claims and say exactly what they meant, this is the time," Mr Franks said.

"At Waitangi, I watched the Chief Justice hearing successive preposterous claims to the ownership of New Zealand's coast. She heard false claims about her Court's `confirmation' of Maori title to the foreshore. No one had an opportunity to rebut the falsehoods, but a Chief Justice needn't to wait until asked at a marae donated by a former governor-general.

"It may be conventional for a Chief Justice to sit silent while the law is abused, but she dignifies shambles like the Waitangi `celebrations' with her presence. When her judgments are misrepresented and used by Maori and Labour politicians to mislead, she must blow the whistle. Some may treat her unprotesting silence as an endorsement by our top judge.

"Misleading and deceptive conduct is a crime under the Fair Trading Act. There is no equivalent for politicians. It is time for the judges to rebut these false claims made in their presence, or at least to signify dissent.

"Clearly, the judges thought that little - if any - seabed and foreshore would be subject to valid Maori claims. In effect, it said only that they could not rule them out, but it was for the Maori Land Court to hear the evidence and decide.

"This was a defeat for the Government and Parliament: the law was previously clear that the foreshore was Crown-owned, except where others held clear title. Now the Treaty industry and some Maori treat the decision as a declaration of Maori ownership.

"The Crown Solicitor told the Waitangi Tribunal that Maori are to be encouraged to apply for customary title if they have `mana moana' or `ancestral connection'. Under English common law and tikanga Maori, neither gives any customary interest in land.

"In 1994, a Maori Land Court called `mana moana' a recent vogue `probably since the fisheries settlements began. We are of the view that it is rooted in greed and ignorance, not tikanga Maori'. By regrettable law making, these judges helped land the country in this mess. They have a responsibility to help straighten things out," Mr Franks said.


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