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Millions Of Dollars Of Maori Wealth Destroyed


MEDIA STATEMENT

Wednesday 17 May 2000 Embargoed until 12:30 pm

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF MÄORI WEALTH BEING DESTROYED: NZIER

“Around one million dollars of Mäori wealth is being destroyed every month by delays in allocating fisheries assets to iwi,” Harry Mikaere, Chairman of the Treaty Tribes Coalition, told the annual Mäori Commercial Fisheries Conference in Nelson today.

The finding is contained in an independent report prepared by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER). The report, based on conservative assumptions and examining only three direct costs of delay, was commissioned by the Treaty Tribes Coalition. The Coalition is releasing it publicly today.

“The report shows that unless the assets are allocated to iwi immediately, up to $84 million of Mäori wealth could be destroyed by 2006,” Mr Mikaere said.

“This is not an issue of interest only to Mäori – the delays in allocation are holding back the New Zealand seafood industry and the New Zealand economy as a whole.”

Mr Mikaere said the Treaty Tribes Coalition was calling on the Government to legislate to direct the allocation of assets to iwi.

“Through a massive five-year consultation process, an unprecedented mandate among Mäori was achieved for allocation of the assets – 76 percent of iwi representing more than 63 percent of Mäori.

“Despite this massive consultation process and the unprecedented mandate, the allocation of assets is still being held up by the technical legal challenges of a few individuals.

“These technical legal challenges will take years to make their way through the courts all the way to the Privy Council in London – while every day, week, month and year the delays will cost Mäori and the New Zealand economy more and more.

“And additional legal challenges are always possible.

“Enough is enough. The Government must legislate to give effect to the will of the overwhelming majority of Mäori.

“Government legislation to direct allocation would finally restore an Article Two Treaty of Waitangi right that can never be given up.

“At the same time – and at no cost to taxpayers – allocation would free up funds to help close the gaps between Mäori and non-Mäori.

“With iwi having the processes and mechanisms to deliver to members – the vast majority of whom are urban residents – allocation would enable iwi to work in closer partnership with Government by funding capital investment and social programmes.

“Legislation is now the only way to stop the destruction of Mäori wealth identified by NZIER in its independent, conservative report – and free resources for more profitable economic and social programmes for the future,” Mr Mikaere said.

At issue are the “pre-settlement” assets now worth about $350 million. These were granted to the Mäori Fisheries Commission (now the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission) in 1989 prior to the landmark 1992 Fisheries Settlement. That Settlement delivered “post-settlement” assets which are today worth a further $350 million.

The intention has always been that all assets would be allocated by the Commission to iwi to finally settle the fisheries claim under Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi. This would also allow iwi to use the assets to strengthen the economic base of their peoples. The “pre-settlement” assets must be allocated to iwi before the “post-settlement” assets can be.

The mechanism for allocating the “pre-settlement” assets, which has achieved the unprecedented mandate among Mäori, is the Optimum Allocation Model. The massive consultation process to develop it lasted from 1993 to 1998.

Mr Mikaere said the Coalition was releasing the report today so it could be discussed by seafood industry leaders at their conferences in Nelson this week.

END

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