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Private Property To Settle Treaty Grievances

Media Release
5 MAY 2000


The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council science and policy manager Michael Harte said the council is deeply concerned that the Labour government has signalled it will use private property rights to settle Treaty claims. The seafood industry made submissions to the Primary Production Select Committee this week on a government proposal to confiscate quota from fishers in order to meet the Crown's Treaty settlement obligations to Maori.

Under the 1992 Treaty of Waitangi fisheries settlement the Crown must allocate 20% of the catching rights of new fish species entering the Quota Management System to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. Rather than buying quota on the open market to meet its Treaty obligations, the government is introducing legislation allowing quota to be compulsorily acquired from fishers at 50 percent of the market value.

"We have informed the committee that the decision to use private property rights to settle Treaty grievances creates a dangerous precedent. It is an unprincipled use of the powers of the state to take the property of individuals in order to satisfy obligations of the Crown to Maori," Dr Harte said.

"The seafood industry acknowledges the government's Treaty commitments and is supportive of the settlement process, but our support is based on promises from the Crown that the resolution of Maori fisheries claims wont create a further grievance for the commercial fishing industry," said Dr Harte.

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission also supports the industry's position that the Crown, not individual fishers, should bear the costs of the Treaty settlement.

"Both this government and the previous one have assured the industry on numerous occasions that existing commercial fisheries would be in no way adversely affected by the settlement of Maori fishing claims."

The Labour Party's election manifesto promised that permit holders would be properly consulted on any compensation proposals and that the government would pay "fair compensation" for any reduction in catching rights.

"Both these pledges have clearly been broken."

Dr Harte emphasised the industry wants to see progress on this issue, so that Maori would be able to participate fully in commercial fisheries and so existing fishers would not be disadvantaged.

"But any settlement of this issue must be fair and must not create further grievances," he said.

For further information contact Dr Michael Harte 04 3854005, or 025 498 087

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