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Government Must Meet With Iwi Over Foreshore Issue

Government Must Meet With Iwi Over Foreshore Issue

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission will continue to take an active role in helping resolve the issue over ownership of New Zealand's foreshore and seabed, Commissioner Maui Solomon said today.

"The task of defining our customary rights won't be an easy one. Principles that clearly articulate Maori rights and a process on how to move forward with the Crown needs to be developed, and it needs to be done now," he said. "The Government has indicated it is already formulating its own ideas on what customary rights mean and may very well pass legislation in the absence of a clear direction from Maori."

Mr Solomon called on Iwi to work together, saying that the only way Maori can achieve a positive outcome was by acting in a unified manner.

He repeated the call that the Government must hold off on presenting its proposals until it had discharged its long-recognised obligation of meeting with the Treaty partner. "The Government appears to be avoiding meeting with Iwi until it has drawn up its own ideas of what Maori customary use might be. But how do you formulate the nature of customary rights and interests in the foreshore and seabed without discussing it with the very people who hold those rights and interests?"

"The Commission is taking an active involvement in this. Our reason for doing so is borne out of our responsibilities as steward of the Fisheries Settlement assets - remembering that we hold these assets for the benefit of all Maori," Mr Solomon said.

"We acknowledge that the Commission does not hold any customary rights or title to the foreshore and seabed, but we do have a responsibility to protect those fisheries assets where legislation and policy might reduce their value."

Mr Solomon said the Commission has actively supported the foreshore and seabed litigation since 1996. The chairman of the Treaty Tribes Coalition and the Iwi of Te Tau Ihu have further extended an invitation for the Commission to work with them.

He said the role of the Commission was two-fold. "To support Iwi and hapu in developing proposals on the foreshore and seabed. We are working with Te Tau Ihu in a working group to help develop these and we would hope that this work is supported by other Iwi. Secondly, our role is to protect the assets the Commission is custodian of on behalf of all Maori."

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