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Tribunal Right, And Wrong, On Coastal Policy

Tribunal Right, And Wrong, On Coastal Policy

ACT New Zealand Maori Affairs Spokesman Stephen Franks said today that the Waitangi Tribunal got three important things right, and three wrong, about Labour's seabed and foreshore proposal.

"The Tribunal was right - Labour has insulted the rule of law. Claimants who succeed in a court case should not be deprived by a retrospective change - did the useless Attorney-General not remind Cabinet of the convention? Even a law change in a panic would usually exempt the parties of the case that prompted it," Mr Franks said.

"Secondly: even if there were no areas that should be under new title, Labour's willingness to expropriate property rights without finding out - and without compensation - breaches Treaty Articles 2 and 3. All citizens - including Maori - are at risk from Labour's contempt for property rights.

"Thirdly: the proposed customary titles are worse than useless. All they promise is that Maori will be a nuisance to their neighbours, drawn into levying blackmail payments without the social benefit of a true owner's interest in using and protecting property value.

"The Tribunal also got three things wrong. First: in claiming a Government failure to protect tino rangatiratanga, `or even the more limited English concept of ownership', the Tribunal seems to be asserting or assuming the very rights the Court of Appeal warned would be rare if they are found at all. Further, it is highly likely that English common law ownership was exactly what `tino rangatiratanga' attempted to describe, not a more limited concept.

"Secondly, the Tribunal failed to recognise its own culpability. Maori Land Court judges sit on the Tribunal - whose dodgy scholarship has added to Labour's panic at the idea of Maori Land Court judges deciding what customary rights exist. The Tribunal has been sadly willing to invent law to suit its agenda.

"It would have been quite proper for Labour to ask Parliament to limit activist judging, by defining closely just what can be delivered by common law customary rights. Stupidly, the Government chose instead to use this as another chance to buy Maori votes.

"Thirdly, the Tribunal recommends further negotiation and a fresh deal, instead of following the logic of its criticisms - which would say let the law give clear rights. It criticises politicians who override the law and property rights, then says the parties should just try to get a better political deal, instead of going back to court. Worse it goes on to make findings so unqualified that no negotiator for Maori will be able to explain to his followers why they should settle for anything less than widespread ownership.

"An unprincipled Government deserves what the Tribunal has dumped on it, but the cost will be borne by us all - and could now be incalculable," Mr Franks said.

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