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Flora and Fauna claim good news for Maori

8 June 2006

Resumption of Flora and Fauna claim good news for Maori

News that the Waitangi Tribunal hearing on Wai 262 Flora and Fauna has resumed has been warmly welcomed by the Green Party.

"This claim is right up there with the Broadcasting and the Foreshore and Seabed claims as one of the most important the Tribunal will ever hear," Maori Issues Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

The claim was brought against the New Zealand Crown in 1991 by the members of six iwi (Ngati Kuri, Ngati Wai, Te Rarawa, Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Koata). The claim seeks the recognition and protection of Maori cultural and intellectual heritage rights in relation to indigenous flora and fauna and their Matauranga, or traditional knowledge, customs and practices related to that flora and fauna. It concerns issues as broad as the imposition of intellectual property rights that patent life forms, ownership of natural resources, and exploitation and misappropriate of taonga. It includes all native species in New Zealand, Maori arts and designs, traditional knowledge, plants and medicines.

"At its heart, this claim is about Maori control over the retention and dissemination of our traditional knowledge of natural resources - a critical expression of tino rangatiratanga. It has been on hold for a very long time and the issues it seeks to address are only getting more acute. The seabed and foreshore was once such an issue, and there are numerous others, such as bio-prospecting and genetic engineering," Mrs Turei says.

"This Government, and previous ones, have failed to recognise the right of tangata whenua to retain full control over traditional knowledge. Our right to do so is put at serious risk by international agreements and bodies, such as the WTO, GATS and free trade agreements.

"This Labour Government certainly can't be trusted on these issues given its appalling behaviour at the recent international meeting on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The Government refused to acknowledge the right of self-determination of indigenous peoples across the globe because it wants to control the tangata whenua at home. New Zealands position is an international disgrace.

"The resumption of the hearing on the Flora and Fauna claim means these issues will at least be heard in full. I sincerely hope that it is upheld," Mrs Turei says.

ENDS


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