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Prime Minister’s Attitude “Disappointing”

“The Crown’s Treaty partner has an equal right to determine the urgency of finally settling the Mäori fisheries claim,” Harry Mikaere, Chairman of the Treaty Tribes Coalition, said today.

Mr Mikaere was responding to comments by the Prime Minister published in today’s New Zealand Herald, via NZPA. Ms Clark was reported saying there was “no pressing urgency” to appoint commissioners to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. The comments mirror recently-released Cabinet papers that show the Government does not intend to resolve the fisheries assets issue until next year at the earliest.

“Ms Clark’s attitude, and that of her Government, is disappointing,” Mr Mikaere said.

“Her comments fail to recognise that the Treaty of Waitangi has two partners.

“Resolving this issue may not be seen as urgent by the Crown. It is certainly seen as urgent by Mäori.

“Ms Clark is also ignoring the costs to Mäori and the seafood industry of allowing the issue to drag on.

“A conservative study by the independent New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has shown delay is costing the country $1 million a month.

“Again, $1 million a month may not sound like much to the Crown, but it sounds like a great deal to iwi around the country wanting to develop their local economies to close their own gaps between Mäori and non- Mäori.

Mr Mikaere said the Crown had an obligation to deliver law that gave effect to the will of the overwhelming majority of Mäori.

“Two years ago, 76 percent of iwi representing 63 percent of Mäori agreed on a compromise model for allocating the assets,” he said.

“Instead of setting unilateral timetables to resolve the issue, Ms Clark should concentrate on fixing the law to allow that majority to be heard.

“It wouldn’t cost the taxpayer a cent.”

Mr Mikaere said Treaty Tribes were also disappointed that Ms Clark had declined to meet with the Coalition, which is supported by more than 25 iwi.

“All we want to do is ensure she understands our story. At the present time, she does not appear to be listening either to iwi or to the seafood industry that unanimously supports us.”

BACKGROUND

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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