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Maori Given Preferential Treatment

10 December 2003 PR253/03

Maori Given Preferential Treatment

Farmers are being shut out from consultation on government plans for the foreshore and seabed, said Tom Lambie, President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

Mr Lambie was commenting on media reports that tribal leaders were briefed privately by the government last week on final policy due in a few days on the foreshore and seabed issue.

"Farmers were not offered such a meeting, despite their being one of the parties most affected by the foreshore changes. On Tuesday morning we requested an urgent briefing but that request has been ignored," Mr Lambie said.

Some farmers own land in the coastal marine area and therefore have ownership rights to parts of the foreshore. Others operate marine farms or have properties adjacent to areas of foreshore and seabed. And some own the foreshore and seabed due to erosion of former farmland.

"The government's handling of this issue reeks of media spin. Reports that iwi are threatening to occupy beaches during the holiday period create the perception that the government is taking a hard line on customary rights, only to deliver something entirely different.

"What it all means to the many hundreds of coastal farmers and other landowners is totally unclear. We simply don't know because the facts are being released selectively. We deplore that farmers are being excluded from the consultation round -- just as they were during initial consultation on the foreshore and seabed earlier this year," Mr Lambie said.

Mr Lambie said farmers were deeply concerned that the government could legislate to create a general right of access even where land is in private ownership.

"The Government must think carefully about signals it is giving all landowners. Secure property rights are fundamental to any business investment, which is the driving force of growth in the New Zealand economy," he said.

"If the government is prepared to legislate away the ownership rights of private individuals to the foreshore - what's next?"

Mr Lambie will meet the Federation of Maori Authorities (Inc), New Zealand's largest Maori business network, on Thursday to discuss the foreshore and seabed issue.


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