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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Committee rubber stamps Te Roroa bill

The Maori Affairs select committee has made only minor changes to a bill settling claims around the Waipoua forest north of Dargaville.

National has withdrawn its support for the Te Roroa Claims Settlement Bill, because it says it fails to adequately address questions of bones taken from burial caves in the forest.

It is also concerned the $9.5 million dollar settlement package may not be economically viable.

Select committee chair Dave Hereora says the only change will be a six month extension to the period Te Roroa can select Crown properties to buy at 2005 valuations.

Mr Hereora says select committees have little room to change settlements.

"Neither a select committee not a committee of the whole House can substantively amend such bills without the agreement of both parties to the deed or treaty being implemented. So in effect the deed of settlement that’s struck between the claimant group and the Crown is the basis that forms the draft for legislation that comes before a select committee,” Mr Hereora says.


New Zealand's only Maori coroner says the relationship between Maori and coroners will improve when the new Coroners Act comes in next month.

Gordon Matenga says the changes will make the coronial office more responsive to Maori cultural needs.

Whanau members can be more involved in decisions affecting the tupapaku, and can formally challenge a request for an autopsy.

Mr Matenga says the coroner then has 24 hours to reconsider whether the autopsy is absolutely necessary.

“And then the family has 48 hours to apply to the High Court to stop that happening if they wish to. It’s one way under the new Act that the law is seeking to address some of the cultural aspects and the understandable abhorrence by most people to the idea of a postmortem,” Mr Matenga says.


A study confirming Polynesian contact with the Americas before Christopher Columbus endorses the Maori view that their ancestors regularly crossed the Pacific.

Lisa Matisso Smith, an associate professor of Biological anthropology at Auckland University, was part of a team which collected chicken bones from an archealogical site in Chile.

Dr Matisso Smith says the DNA in the bones matched a 2000-year-old chicken bone from Tonga, and others from Samoa, Nuie and Rapanui or Easter Island.

She says while the only animals introduced by Maori were the kuri or native dog and the kiore or rat, it doesn't rule out a Maori connection.

“The pig and the chicken, which were the other tow animals the Polynesians carried with them, weren’t introduced here, so they couldn’t have taken chickens from Aotearoa to South America, but chickens were introduced, along with kiore, to Easter Island, and that’s the closest location and a very likely source for those voyages to South America,” she says.


A two year research project has found degradation of waterways and commercial fishing are having a profound impact on the size and numbers of eels in the lower North Island.

Environmental researcher Pataka Moore says he used a kaupapa Maori approach to identify problems and then attempt to develop strategies to restore tuna or eel stocks to past levels.

Mr Moore says 18 marae helped assess the state of the fishery, and they had strong views about where the problems were.

“Ngati Raukawa ki te Tonga, between Bulls and Waikanae, have opposed commercial fishing and we continue that stance. Commercial fishing is having a huge impact in the number of tuna in our rivers and streams. It’s just not a very good state,” he says.

Mr Moore's study was supported by Te Wanaga O Raukawa and the Foundation for Research Science and Technology.


The Minister of Maori Affairs says as Maori are becoming more global, it stands to reason others would want to do the same.

Parekura Horomia says changes to entry requirements which will allow more wealthy investors to migrate here should provide positive benefits for Maori.

He says many of the potential migrants will be prepared to work with New Zealand's indigenous people.

“Most of the Asian immigrants who come in, and a lot of the Chinese too, are very kosher with our culture, dare I mention a lot more kosher than a lot of Pakeha here, so in my mind anyway I think immigration is, if you understand like I do our people are starting to go global, we need to encourage that,” Mr Horomia says.

He says migrants help maintain the country's population base, and are a source of potential investment for Maori businesses.


The organiser of a symposium on the historic Maori Council lands case says it will be a chance for some of the country's finest legal thinkers to say what the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi mean today.

Otago University senior law lecturer Jacinta Ruru says speakers include retired judges Sir Ivor Richardson and Sir Maurice Casey, who were on the Court of Appeal which heard the case 20 years ago, and Justice David Baragwanath, who was the Maori Council's lawyer.

The Court ruled the Crown had to take treaty principles such as partnership and good faith into account when transferring land to state owned enterprises.

Ms Ruru says many Maori feel things have gone backwards since then.

“With a lot of the court decisions that are coming through as well, the judged might be thinking about what are these treaty principles, but then saying because they are just one of a number of other things that they need to have regard to, then something else trumps and then you don’t get the outcome, and I think that’s a real concern to be considering and thinking about,” Ms Ruru says.

More than 100 people have already indicated they will travel to Dunedin for the June 29 gathering.


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