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Judge Right To Defy Government

Judge Right To Defy Government

Friday 12 Mar 2004 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Treaty of Waitangi & Maori Affairs

The Maori Land Court judge in Gisborne who authorised foreshore and seabed claims to proceed is upholding the rule of law, and should be applauded - even by those who believe the claims are not justified, ACT New Zealand Maori Affairs Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Judge Caren Wickcliffe is doing what every New Zealander should expect from the courts -dispensing justice without fear or favour, including from the Government," Mr Franks said.

"Rule of law countries are distinguished from `rule of ruler' countries, because - like most humble citizens - the government is subject, before the courts, to law made by Parliament. Until Labour changes the law, the Maori Land Court should administer justice in accordance with the law as it stands, and as it has been declared by our Court of Appeal.

"It is up to the Government to get its proposals before Parliament. It's just sad for the rest of us that Labour is frozen, trying to do deals with its Maori Caucus before it can do so.

"The solution is simple: the Marlborough case should proceed. Te Ture Whenua Maori Act should be amended, making it clear that Maori Land Court judges must assess claims on the basis of the English common law requirement for unbroken and exclusive customary use to the present day, eliminating recently-invented tikanga and slogans like `ancestral connection'.

"I suspect most of the claims filed are unfounded. Those filed since the Court of Appeal's unfortunate decision last year may be opportunist, and prompted by misconceptions of the extent of rights the Court of Appeal contemplated - but an Attorney-General with any respect for constitutional principle would not expect the courts to wait.

"Only law passed by the people's elected representatives in Parliament should be able to influence the courts - not Government bluster and threats of law changes. All power to Judge Wickliffe in the meantime," Mr Franks said.


For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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