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Respect for property rights in everyone’s interest

Respect for property rights in everyone’s interests

“Respect for property rights, regardless of ethnicity, is in everyone’s interests and is essential to fair and principled government,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said today.

“It represents the rule of law. To suggest it represents separatism is silly and ignorant.

“The brute reality is that Maori have rights as indigenous people and that these cannot be simply brushed aside because Don Brash finds them inconvenient. Similar rights pertain to the Australian aborigines and to the native Americans in Canada and are recognised in both those jurisdictions.

“Are we to settle for a lesser standard of fairness in this country? Not under this government, no,” Dr Cullen said.

He was responding to National Party ads claiming a conflict between the Prime Minister’s statement that the government’s seabed and foreshore proposals were in the best interests of all New Zealanders and the Crown’s submissions to the Waitangi Tribunal that the proposals offered Maori a real power.

“Strip away the rhetoric and what National is arguing is that the national interest would be best served if the government simply extinguished Maori customary rights.

“But these rights are property rights and to remove them without compensation is theft. It is difficult to see how, in a property-owning democracy like New Zealand, a casual disregard for property rights can be in anyone’s interest,” Dr Cullen said.

“How can the electorate trust a party prepared to ride roughshod over one set of property rights to protect other property rights or would National run two standards of citizenship and draw a distinction between Maori rights and those of the rest of us?

“This exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of their race-based campaign.”

He said the government’s seabed and foreshore policy was in the best interests of all New Zealanders because it secured traditional rights of public access while also acknowledging Maori customary interests.

“It seeks to establish a basis on which we can move forward together in the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi as one nation but two peoples.

Dr Cullen said the government was proposing a two tiered regime based around customary title and customary rights. Customary title was designed to recognise mana and ancestral connection and would carry with it only the right to be consulted on management of the relevant area.

“Customary rights are stronger and, although they do not constitute ‘ownership’as such, are property rights. They will tend to be highly specific in nature, discrete and activity based.

“To access them whanau, hapu and iwi will have to establish before the Maori Land Court that they have exercised more or less continuous usage.

“They will also carry a right of veto against conflicting uses. If, for example, someone has a customary right to launch waka and someone else wants to put up a jetty which would prevent that waka-launching right being exercised, it is not unreasonable that the permission of the existing property owner would be required.

“However because customary rights can be issued only for the volumes of resource used in the past, and because fishing rights have already been provided for separately through the Waitangi fisheries settlement, only small sections of the coast will likely be affected by the proposed customary rights framework,” Dr Cullen said.

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