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Foreshore law shuts non-Maori out of the court

National Party Deputy Leader

14 April 2004

Foreshore law shuts non-Maori out of the court

The Labour Government's double standards are alive and well in the seabed and foreshore policy unveiled last week, says National's Deputy Leader, Gerry Brownlee.

"The Bill denies non-Maori the opportunity to object to Maori claims of ancestral connection coming before the Maori Land Court, effectively shutting them out of the Maori Land Court decision-making process," he says.

"The Maori Land Court will have the power to grant Maori special rights of 'ancestral connection' over virtually the entire coast, but under Labour's plans, non-Maori will have to work much harder to get the chance to put their side of the story to the court.

"While Maori applicants are automatically entitled to representation before the Maori Land Court, a non-Maori objector would have to prove that he or she 'has an interest in the proceeding that is different from an interest in common with the public generally'. - (Schedule 1, cl 13(c), page 54).

"That's two standards of representation.

"The Bill also says 'if no objections are received to an application, the Maori Land Court must make an order... if it is satisfied it is entitled to do so under [the relevant statutory test].' (cl 54(2), page 27)'.

"In other words, in the absence of objections, the court can tick the boxes and make the requested order without a public hearing.

"So the effect is that if you are non-Maori you can't object, giving the Maori Land Court free rein to rubber stamp claims of ancestral connection. Meanwhile the few non-Maori able to apply for customary rights orders (cl 58, page 28) will be forced to do so through the High Court, a much tougher test, when Maori take their cases through the Maori Land Court (cl 37, page 21).

"This makes a mockery of claims that all New Zealanders have equal rights under this proposed legislation," says Mr Brownlee.

"It's further proof that Labour's framework for 'Crown ownership' is nothing more than a sham designed to appease the majority of its Maori caucus."


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