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Greens: Government can't hold back the tide

30 April, 2004

Greens: Government can't hold back the tide

The impending resignation of Associate Maori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia confirms how deeply Maori feel about the sea and the proposed confiscation of their legal rights to due process in court, the Green Party said today.

Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said it was sad that, in order for her to fully represent the concerns of her constituency, Ms Turia was forced to take the step of resigning and necessitate a by-election.

"Tariana Turia was left with a stark choice: either submit to the Government's legislation and keep her job, or make a principled stand in accordance to the wishes of her constituency," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"The Government has now paid the price for ignoring sensible solutions. As the Green Party has said from the beginning, and as the Waitangi Tribunal later confirmed, there is a large measure of agreement we could build on.

"Maori and Pakeha agree there should be no exclusive, private saleable title to the foreshore and seabed. They also agree there should be public access except in a few exceptional cases to protect sites of special importance.

"If the Government had sat round the table with iwi it could have negotiated acceptable legislation to achieve this without abrogating the legal and treaty rights of Maori. Instead, the knee-jerk reaction to legislate to overturn the Court of Appeal decision was so insulting it made a negotiated solution impossible.

"It would still be possible to abandon the legislation and go back to the table to seek a more acceptable outcome. Maori are prepared to start again without prejudice.

"One option would be amending the Te Ture Whenua Act so that when Maori seek title at the Maori Land Court it will be a collective title, unable to be freeholded or subdivided. An agreement on public access could then be negotiated before title is issued. A sharing of commercial development rights could also be negotiated," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"But one thing remains clear: legislating for crown ownership before Maori have had the chance to test their rights and claims through the court amounts to confiscation. The Greens understand why there is no way Tariana could support that."

ENDS

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