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Whanganui Decision Already Impacting Claims

Wednesday 30th Jun 1999

Ken Shirley

Media Release -- Other

ACT Deputy Leader Hon Ken Shirley today said river tribes with claims for ownership of rivers are looking at the Waitangi Tribunal's decision, to grant Maori ownership of the Whanganui River, in terms of the precedent it sets for their own claims.

"Claims by the Minister of Treaty Negotiations and the Tribunal itself that the decision does not set a precedent are meaningless. The Tribunal's own report sets out strong arguments for the return of the Waikato River to Tainui.

"Tainui believe the report affirms their contention that they own the Waikato River.

"The spokesperson for the Mohaka River claimants in the Northern Hawkes Bay said today that if Whanganui Maori get back the water 'it's all go then'.

"One lawyer acting for Ngati Pikiau points out that the Whanganui decision has to be an important finding for river claims and that even river tribes who haven't pressed for ownership in the past may now assert their rights too.

"Manu Paul, spokesperson for Bay of Plenty tribes that are claiming ownership of rivers in the region, is calling on all river claimants to, 'take a concerted effort towards the Crown so they can refute the nonsensical statements made by Sir Doug Graham, that Maoris don't own rivers, when there's another report that is saying that a proposal is that these peoples have ownership rights and that they should have the title to their river'.

"This is another example of the problems we have with a settlement process that is out of control. The Government now finds itself in a very difficult position in terms of having to respond to the report and move towards settlement with Whanganui Maori.

"Now the report is out, the Government cannot let the matter drag on indefinitely, all peoples around the Whanganui deserve some certainty over the river's future ownership. All New Zealanders deserve the same certainty about the water, air and sunlight in this country that is now being claimed under the Treaty.

The Government must set out clear parameters and bounds for the settlement process. It should set these down in legislation if necessary.

"The Governments of future generations will continue to face the same problems unless we get the settlement process back on track and set a time frame for the full, fair and final settlement of all legitimate claims," said Hon Ken Shirley.


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