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TOW Fisheries Commission Urged Not To Delay

Treaty Of Waitangi Fisheries Commission Urged Not To Delay

The Treaty Tribes Coalition will support the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, Te Ohu Kai Moana, in moving to a speedy allocation of Maori fisheries assets, Harry Mikaere, Chairman of the Treaty Tribes Coalition, said following a meeting with TOKM yesterday.

“As the owners of Maori commercial fishing assets, we welcome the fact that the new Commission wants to get on with its job of passing these assets back to Maori, as it said last week. We know that there is also political will to see this job done. This is the message we communicated to Te Ohu Kai Moana.

“However, we remain strongly of the view that the ‘optimum allocation model’ has the highest level of support that can be generated for any model of allocation now or in the future.
Allocation of ‘pre-settlement’ assets (those agreed with the Crown in 1989) should not be delayed by consideration of any other models – including those for distributing ‘post-settlement’ assets (those agreed with the Crown in 1992).

“Quite simply, we do not want to have to keep clearing hurdles only to find other obstacles put in our way,” Mr Mikaere said.

“The Crown settled with iwi to compensate Maori for their loss of fishing rights. Iwi worked with TOKM over five years to develop a compromise model for the distribution of the pre-settlement assets the Commission has been holding on behalf of Maori. But legal action has constantly stopped that ‘optimum allocation model’ being reported to the Government for implementation.

“What that means is that, after nine years, iwi are still having to rent their assets from the Commission year by year. An economic study by the NZIER has found that not actively owning, investing and building on these assets is costing Maori $1 million a month.”

The Privy Council earlier this month confirmed that the Maori Fisheries Act requires the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission to allocate pre-settlement assets to iwi and that ‘iwi’ means the traditional Maori tribes. The High Court and Court of Appeal had already made that judgement.

“We have been very patient, but now that the Privy Council hearing is out of the way we want to ensure the expressions of political will are translated into action.

“There has to be legislation, or technical litigation by a handful of individuals could continue to stop the allocation process. We already face yet more delays with another High Court challenge to be heard next year, and that takes us far too close to an election.

“Under the existing law, even when that High Court hearing is cleared away, any changed allocation models from TOKM require more consultation and open up the way for yet more litigation.

“What we have isn’t justice. It is not good for Maori; it is not good for New Zealand. And when we all want investment and jobs, it is simply a waste.

“The Treaty Tribes Coalition is looking forward to working with the Government on legislation for allocation. There’s no reason that shouldn’t happen now.”

END

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