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Aotearoa Indigenous Rights Trust Statement

Joint Statement - Aotearoa Indigenous Rights Trust, Tuhoe Nation (Hati Ponika) And International Indian Treaty Council

Delivered by Estebancio Castro Diaz

1. Indigenous brothers and sisters, experts of the Working Group, State representatives, greetings from the Aotearoa Indigenous Rights Trust, Tuhoe Nation, and the International Indian Treaty Council. I am making a joint statement on behalf of these three organisations in relation to recent political developments in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

2. We regret to report to this Working Group of the deliberate confiscation of the seabed and foreshore in Aotearoa/New Zealand by the New Zealand government. The New Zealand government has drafted legislation that extinguishes Maori property rights and Maori access to justice. The proposed legislation is called the Foreshore and Seabed Bill 2004.

3. The proposed legislation is a political reaction to a New Zealand Court of Appeal case that held that Maori have customary property rights to the foreshore. The government did not like this decision and quickly responded by formulating a policy that the foreshore and seabed would be vested in the Crown because they had always assumed that they owned it. The policy was hastily taken around the country to a number of Maori nations. Whilst Maori expressed their views about the policy in differing ways, the overriding position was a clear rejection of the policy. It was obvious to Maori that the consultation process was rushed and that the government had already made up its mind.

4. In the last year, Maori have patiently and clearly voiced their opposition to the government’s position. The government has failed to listen to our concerns.

5. When the proposed legislation was still policy Maori applied for and were granted an urgent hearing before the Waitangi Tribunal. The Tribunal found that the policy breached not only the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi but also the actual terms of the Treaty. The Tribunal held “the policy clearly breaches the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. But beyond the Treaty, the policy fails in terms of wider norms of domestic and international law that underpin good government in a modern, democratic state. These include the rule of law, and the principles of fairness and non-discrimination.” The Tribunal urged the government to reconsider their position.

6. The proposed legislation takes away the right of Maori to have customary rights investigated and recognised. These rights are not compensated for nor are they extinguished with the free prior and informed consent of Maori. The imposition of this regime effects only Maori property rights and therefore discriminates against Maori on the basis of race.

7. The proposed legislation also breaches international standards of human rights norms including the right to culture, the right of non-discrimination and the right to justice. Whilst the New Zealand government considers the proposed legislation to be necessary to establish “a comprehensive framework for recognising rights and interests in the foreshore”, it provides no certainty for Maori, it legalises the Crown’s political assumption of ownership and, creates further obstacles for Maori to assert their right to tino rangatiratanga/Sovereignty.

8. The proposed legislation has already led to conflict between Maori and the government. It will not bring about resolution of these matters but rather create further grievances and uncertainty. We urge the New Zealand government to undertake honest, open dialogue with Maori on this issue and not to extinguish our human rights.

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