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Focus On Commission Appointments “Misguided”

“The current focus on the appointment of new Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioners is misguided and will do nothing to solve the “pre-settlement” fisheries assets issue that is costing the Mäori seafood industry $1 million every month,” Harry Mikaere, Chairman of the Treaty Tribes Coalition, said today.

Mr Mikaere was responding to comments attributed to the Prime Minister in yesterday’s Evening Post. The Post reported the Prime Minister as saying it was the commission’s job to come up with an allocation model to recommend to the Government.

“The commission has already developed a model, the optimum allocation model. It was the result of five years of careful consultation and compromise, and achieved the support two years ago of 76 percent of iwi representing 63 percent of Mäori.

“Since then, the commission has been prevented by the legal antics of a few individuals from formally recommending its model to the Minister of Mäori Affairs.

“Those legal antics appear likely to continue indefinitely, and appointing new commissioners won’t change that.

“The Government, through Parliament, must act now. Mäori have agreed on a model. Every month the Government delays costs another $1 million, compounding to $84 million by 2006 according to the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

“We regret that the Prime Minister appears to see new commissioners as the answer. The new commissioners will be as hamstrung as the old.

“The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council understands this and shares our frustration. Together, we want to build New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry. That is why the council resolved unanimously at its annual conference last month to back Treaty Tribes’ call for legislation to direct the immediate implementation of the optimum allocation model.”

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.

END

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