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PM should step out of the way of Nanaia's Bill

14 June 2005

PM should step out of the way of Nanaia's legal aid Bill

The Prime Minister should not stand in the way of a Labour MP's bill that would allow Maori to apply for legal aid for customary rights claims on the foreshore and seabed, says the Greens' Maori Issues Spokesperson Metiria Turei.

Tainui MP Nanaia Mahuta's Legal Services (Territorial Customary Rights) Amendment Bill was drawn last week. Yesterday Helen Clark said she had been unaware it was in the ballot and has since persuaded Ms Mahuta to defer it until after the election because it breaches a deal struck last year with Winston Peters to secure New Zealand First's support for the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

"It is unfortunate that Miss Clark is not prepared to support an initiative by one of her Maori MPs that would go some way towards soothing the sense of betrayal that Maoridom is feeling towards Labour," said Mrs Turei.

"While we were disappointed that Ms Mahuta voted for the Foreshore and Seabed Act, we applaud her commitment to her constituency in putting forward this Bill. The Greens would prefer that she press ahead so that Labour has to collectively take a position, rather than avoid the issue.

"Mr Peters, as a lawyer, should be ashamed of himself for this stunt. Legal aid for claims that a law acknowledges should be heard is being blocked for purely political reasons.

"The Greens oppose the Foreshore and Seabed Act, but Ms Mahuta's proposal would at least make it possible for Maori to exercise the limited rights it offers by making it affordable to take a customary rights claim through to the High Court.

"Mr Peters is just plain wrong that such a move would contribute to the so-called Treaty gravy-train. Taking claims to court would allow them to be settled more quickly, rather than carrying on unresolved, causing resentment.

"Maori should look very closely at New Zealand First's role in this whole saga. Mr Peters and his cronies have already helped the Crown confiscate the foreshore and seabed and made it very difficult for Maori to meet the criteria. Now they are actively blocking Maori from being able to prove customary rights.

"Miss Clark needs to reconsider where her loyalties lie - to her Maori MPs or to her political opponents," said Mrs Turei.

ENDS

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