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Māori Party’s head in the clouds

14 September 2007

Māori Party’s head in the clouds over non-binding UN declaration

The Māori Party is full of hollow talk over the government’s decision not to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says Māori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia.

Contrary to a number of misleading claims by the party’s co-leaders today, the New Zealand government did not vote against a move at the United Nations to outlaw discrimination against indigenous peoples.

“Nor does the government accept Tariana Turia’s ridiculous claim that this government believes indigenous people are “sub-human with only sub-human rights” – which I, and no doubt my Māori caucus colleagues, frankly find offensive.”

The declaration adopted in the UN yesterday is in effect a wish list which fails to bind states to any of its provisions, Mr Horomia said.

“This means it is toothless. I’m actually more than a little surprised the Māori Party is prepared to back something which effectively offers indigenous peoples no more than aspirational statements.”

Our government has worked extremely hard over a number of years to help forge a declaration which protects and promotes the rights of indigenous peoples in a meaningful way – and which states could actually implement, Mr Horomia said.

“The declaration adopted does neither and while we are proud of our efforts, we are deeply disappointed with the final result which we could not support.”

“There are four provisions we have problems with, which make the declaration fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal arrangements and established Treaty settlement policy.”

Article 26 of the Declaration states that indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired. For New Zealand this covers potentially the entire country.

“It appears to require recognition of rights to lands now lawfully owned by other citizens, both indigenous and non-indigenous. This ignores contemporary reality and would be impossible to implement,” Mr Horomia said.

“The declaration also implies that indigenous people should have a right of veto over parliamentary law-making.”

The government strongly supports the full and active engagement of indigenous people in democratic decision-making processes. But these articles imply different classes of citizenship, where indigenous peoples have veto rights not held by others, Mr Horomia said.

“Indigenous rights in New Zealand are of profound importance. The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of this country and we have an unparalleled system for redress. Nearly 40 per cent of New Zealand fishing quota is owned by Maori and claims to over half of the country’s land area have been settled.

“We also have some of the most extensive consultation mechanisms in the world, where the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, including the principle of informed consent, are enshrined in resource management law.

“The Labour-led government is focused on pursuing goals which achieve real results for real people. It’s about time the Māori Party got its head out of the clouds and focused on achieving some real milestones, rather than pie-in-the-sky talk which won’t make a jot of difference in our peoples’ lives.”

ENDS

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