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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cabinet secrecy masked indigenous rights switch

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples has expressed regret for the secrecy round New Zealand's affirmation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Dr Sharples made an unannounced trip to New York to tell the United Nations New Zealand was changing its 2007 position, when it was one of only four countries to vote against the document.

He told Radio Waatea News from New York that while many Maori would be disappointed there was no consultation around the decision, that was a result of the process.

“It's simply a Cabinet decision and Cabinet decisions stay in Cabinet until the time of announcement so it was timed that I should do this this morning so that’s the reason why and I just feel for my people, especially those who worked hard, that we weren’t able to discuss this and the manner I had to release it,” Dr Sharples says.

He's proud of the contributions of Maori including Moana Jackson, Moana Sinclair and Aroha Mead to shaping the declaration during its 20-year gestation.


Meanwhile, lawyer Moana Jackson says as someone involved with drafting the declaration, he has mixed feelings about New Zealand's affirmation.

He says it's good for Maori and all other indigenous peoples that this country has signed up to the document.

But it can't cover up the fact that New Zealand fought against many of the things indigenous groups wanted included.

“There were times when New Zealand governments whether National or Labour were really quite obstructive as indigenous peoples tried to work the declaration through and there were times we really needed the support of the New Zealand government and it wasn't there,” Mr Jackson says.

He says while the declaration is non-binding, Maori can use it as a tool to fight for their rights.


A Putiki spokesperson is keen for artifacts found during road widening near the marae on the lower Whanganui River to go on display at the marae as well as at the city's museum.

A moa bone fishook, sinkers, lures, cooking and sharpening tools and other items were discovered in a midden on the eastern bank of the river late last year.

Chris Shenton says the find authenticates tribal stories of seasonal fishing stations all along the river.

“The pure fact that we know this is our old people’s material and we know where it’s from. There are many things in the museums today that are old materials but we don’t know where they’re from or we don’t know if they’re necessarily from our particular iwi. In this case we know this for sure. Gives us a lot of confidence about what we’ve been saying for a long time about our traditional ways of living,” Mr Shenton says.

While professional archeologists are preserving and studying the material, iwi members are keen to share the long term guardianship role with the Whanganui Regional Museum.


The Maori Internet Society says Maori who uploaded data to Bebo should be concerned at the lack of information on what will happen to the material if the site closes.

Chairperson Richard Ozecki says the social networking site is the most popular with young Maori and Pacifika users, but it has lost the race with competitors like Facebook.

America Online, which paid US$850 million for Bebo two years ago, has indicated it will close or sell the site by the end of May.

Mr Orzeki says users put lots of valuable information on such sites, but backing up is their own responsibility.

His own marae, Ngati Wehiwehi from the Horowhenua hamlet of Manukau, has a Facebook page to share information with whanau.


Labour leader Phil Goff says Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples had to sneak off to New York to affirm New Zealand's support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples because the government knew the document would not be acceptable to ordinary New Zealanders.

Maori Party leader told the UN New Zealand accepts the declaration without caveats, but Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the government will reveal its exclusions at a later date.

Mr Goff says the Labour Government voted against the declaration in 2007 because it included provisions which are at odd with New Zealand law and the Treaty of Waitangi.

“I mean one article in the document says indigenous people have the rights to ‘own, use, develop and control lands and territories they have traditionally owned, occupied or used.’ Well that’s the whole of New Zealand in the case of Maoridom and obviously you can’t sign up to something you’re never ever going to put into practice. That’s just double standards and hypocrisy,” Mr Goff says.

He says the National-led government has no intention of giving Maori veto rights over government policy, as the declaration implies.


The Returned Services Association expects more te reo Maori will be used in this Sunday's ANZAC services around the country.

Chief executive Stephen Clarke says it is over to individual RSAs how they incorporate Maori into their ceremonies.

He says each year more are choosing to sing the national anthem in Maori, and the final lines in the ode, Lines for the Fallen, “We shall remember them,” are also being spoken in te reo.

Dr Clarke says Maori leaders Sir Peter Buck and Sir Apirana Ngata both spoke in parliament about the nation being formed in the blood shed in the battlefields of Europe, and the new generation of New Zealanders attending ANZAC day services in record numbers give new meaning to their words.


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