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Fisheries Impasse Requires Govt Action

ACT Deputy Leader and former Fisheries Minister Ken Shirley has thrown his support behind the Treaty Tribes Coalition’s efforts to unlock the Maori fisheries assets.

Mr Shirley chaired the special select committee which established the Maori Fisheries Commission under a Labour Government and subsequently, as Fisheries Minister, made the initial allocations of fish quota to the Commission on behalf of the Crown.

He said the Maori Fisheries Commission, later renamed the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, was only intended to be a short term quota holding body that would receive the transferred quota and determine the allocation to iwi.

Instead, he said, there had been 10 years of bitter wrangling within Maoridom that had cost $1 million a month. “A study by the Institute of Economic Research predicts that loss will compound to $84 million by 2006 unless the asset allocation is addressed quickly,” Mr Shirley said.

“The Government must take steps to end this impasse now.”

Mr Shirley said The Treaty Tribes Coalition represented the vast majority of Maori.

“The optimum allocation model was developed by the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission over a five year consultation period, and at the end of that process, achieved the support of 70 per cent of iwi, which represented 63 per cent of Maori, “ Mr Shirley said

“In spite of this, feuding urban and iwi lobby factions continue to drag out the process, playing into the hands of some of the key players who have a clear incentive to postpone a settlement.

“This group includes many lawyers and consultants earning huge fees,” Mr Shirley said.

He said the uncertainty over establishing a clear property right to the fisheries resource, was a constraint on investment that was “robbing Maori of wealth and restricting the entire fishing industry.”

Mr Shirley said the Labour/Alliance Government was “hopelessly split” on the fisheries issues and had confused the debate even further with their experiment at “social engineering” based on racial origins of individual New Zealanders.

“By attempting to make the Treaty of Waitangi a basis of health and other social legislation, the Government is embarking on a dangerous pathway leading to serious social disharmony,” Mr Shirley said.

He said the fisheries quota issues was all about the Crown fulfilling an Article 2 Treaty of Waitangi obligation, dealing with property rights.

“Conversely, this Government’s policies of race-based preference for individuals is a breach of Article 3 of the Treaty, prescribing equality before the Law,” Mr Shirley said.


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