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Parl. Inaction Costs Another Million Dollars

Parliament’s Inaction Costs Another Million Dollars

“Another $1 million of Mäori seafood industry wealth has been destroyed in the last month because the “pre-settlement” fisheries assets issue hasn’t been sorted out,” Harry Mikaere, Chairman of the Treaty Tribes Coalition, said on the eve of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission’s Annual Meeting.

Mr Mikaere said the destruction of wealth was not the fault of the commission. It was caused by Parliament not fixing the law to direct the commission to implement the “optimum allocation model” for fisheries assets, as agreed two years ago by 76 percent of iwi representing more than 63 percent of Mäori.

“Parliament’s inaction is despite the 17 May release of an independent study by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) that showed, conservatively, delay is destroying $1 million of Mäori seafood industry wealth each and every month.

“It is despite the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) resolving unanimously at its annual conference the same week to support the Treaty Tribes’ case.

“Parliament has a responsibility to act, particularly when the majority of Mäori and the fourth biggest export industry speak with one voice.”

Mr Mikaere said it was not good enough for MPs to say Mäori had to sort the issue out.

“Mäori have sorted the issue out – two years ago. In any other sector of New Zealand society a 50 percent or two-thirds majority is called an absolute mandate for action.

“The only reason delay continues is because a handful of individuals are exploiting flaws in the law with expensive legal challenges.

“None of their legal antics have been found to have any merit by the New Zealand courts, but that isn’t stopping the litigants going off to the Privy Council in London next year.

“There will always be one or two people with axes to grind, but that does not mean the economic prospects of the overwhelming majority should be held back.

“We are looking for Parliament to act this month and avoid yet another $1 million from being destroyed.

“That $1 million would come at no cost to taxpayers, but it could be used to build business confidence in the seafood industry, develop our regional economies, and close the gaps between Mäori and non-Mäori,” Mr Mikaere said.

The Treaty Tribes Coalition was established in 1994 and has the support of more than 25 iwi.

The Coalition is seeking the implementation of the “optimum allocation model” that was developed by the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission through a five-year consultation process. At the conclusion of that consultation process two years ago, the model achieved the support of 76 percent of iwi representing 63 percent of Mäori.

The model deals with $350 million of “pre-settlement” fisheries assets, which have been held in trust by the commission since 1989. The commission has also held a further $350 million of “post-settlement” assets since 1992.

The model was a compromise between those iwi that believed assets should be allocated on the basis of coastline and those that believed they should be allocated on the basis of population.

Deepsea quota would be allocated on a 50 percent population, 50 percent coastline basis. Inshore quota would be allocated on a coastline basis. Shares in Moana Pacific Fisheries would be allocated in proportion to the entire quota volume allocated to each iwi. A further $40 million cash would be allocated on the basis of population only, with another $10 million cash kept in trust for those Mäori who are not active members of their iwi organisations. The model also requires that iwi have mandate and accountability mechanisms to deliver to their members, the vast majority of whom are urban residents.

Despite the majority support for the compromise model, allocation is being held up by technical legal challenges by a few individuals. None of these challenges have been found to have merit by the courts, but appeals continue.

Earlier this year, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) undertook an independent and conservative study into the costs of delaying allocation of the “pre-settlement” assets. Looking at just three costs of delay, including the inability of iwi to form multi-iwi partnerships, it concluded the costs were up to $14 million a year. This would compound to $84 million by 2006 if allocation did not occur immediately.

Following the release of the report, the Treaty Tribes Coalition renewed its call for the Government to fix the law to end the technical legal wrangling. The call was supported unanimously by the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) at its annual conference and by New Zealand’s biggest fisheries company, Sanford Ltd.


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