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Maori Land Court Judge Appears Confused

Media Release

28 March 2005

Maori Land Court Judge Appears Confused

Chief Maori Land Court Judge Joe Williams has no jurisdiction to hear claims by a small Opotiki iwi for control of 50km of Eastern Bay of Plenty coastline, says New Zealand First law and justice spokesperson Dail Jones.

Mr Jones was on the select committee that considered the foreshore and seabed legislation, helped redraft parts of the bill, and as a lawyer has undertaken Maori Land Court work.

He explained today that the Maori Land Court could not consider hearing Whakatohea's claims of rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga (authority and guardianship) over the coastline.

“Only the High Court can do this and by taking such a case Judge Williams is being either mischievous or does not understand the law. The Maori Land Court can only rule on a customary use like launching a waka or collecting stones for a hangi.

“The iwi also cannot bar anyone from the foreshore and seabed. It is entrenched in law that all New Zealanders have lawful, unimpeded access and that no fees are payable by anyone. The media are simply scaremongering on this.”

Mr Jones said that gathering kaimoana and fishing did not come within the jurisdiction of the bill either as this was governed by the Fisheries Act. The foreshore and seabed legislation had nothing to do with Treaty claims.

“Judge Williams appears to be heading on a collision course with Parliament. He disagreed personally with the legislation as he pointed out in submissions to the select committee.

“It is difficult to see how long the Government or the judiciary can continue tolerating a judge who either ignores the law or deliberately flouts it because he disagrees with it,” said Mr Jones.


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