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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Attorney General says bill offers best of both worlds

Attorney General Chris Finlayson has defended the ability of the High Court to sort out whether individual Maori groups have customary rights to areas of the foreshore and seabed

Ngati Kahu negotiator Margaret Mutu says her far north runanga won't be using the mechanism in the Marine and Coastal Area Bill because Pakeha high court judges don't have training in things Maori.

Mr Finlayson says Professor Mutu's disparaging comments about the judiciary ignore the significant work Pakeha judges have done in recognising Maori rights.

He says they won't do the job alone.

“If you've got an application to the High Court for an issue to determine customary title and there are issues of tikanga, the judge can have recourse to an expert or refer an issue to the Maori Land Court so it’s all there, we’ve got the best of both worlds, and it really is quite unhelpful and destructive to come out with those sorts of headline,” Mr Finlayson says.

He says Professor Mutu's comments were on par with the statements of the Coastal Coalition, who he earlier referred to as clowns.


Meanwhile, Coastal Coalition founder Muriel Newman says Maori have little chance of winning title to coastal areas through the courts ... so that's where they should go, rather than being allowed to cut deals with ministers behind closed doors.

The former ACT MP yesterday made a submission on the Marine and Coastal Bill to the Maori affairs select committee in Whangarei.

She says the bill is a dog's breakfast, and the Government should simply repeal the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act and let the courts decide.

Dr Newman says the Court of Appeal's Ngati Apa decision in 2003 made it clear most customary titles had been extinguished by the Maori Land Court.

“They said that it would be a hard job for any iwi to claim it and they also said that it would be more likely to be small discrete areas, reefs and rocks and shellfish beds and things like that,” Dr Newman says.


Maori communities are concerned a disease killing off juvenile oysters could affect their livelihoods.

Tom Hollings, the executive officer of the Oyster Association, says the mystery disease which has destroyed up to half the farmed oyster harvest in harbours from the Bay of Plenty to the far north.

He says it's become a big part of the Maori economy in many areas such as Parengarenga.

The disease doesn't seem to affect people who eat the oysters.


The Kahui Ariki representative on Tainui's parliament says King Tuheitia had little option than to sack its chair, Tania Martin.

Greg Miller has been appointed acting chair of te Kauhanganui, and he is also on the tribal executive, Te Ara Taura.

Mr Miller says Mrs Martin had failed to apologise for a report attacking the executive's spending, despite acknowledging significant errors.

He says Mrs Martin's intention to conduct an internal governance review was the last straw.

“The king's sticking to a review of the constitution and the financial performance of Te Kauhanganui and Te Ara Taura which is a good thing and it’s welcomed by Te Ara Taura but it’s a difficult situation when the chair is pushing information out that’s not correct and expecting to chair that review so that’s not a real possibility, so that’s why the king stepped in and said I want to bring some order to this,” Mr Miller says.

An independent governance review will be conducted by retired Maori land Court judge Heta Hingston and professional director Craig Ellison.


Treaty Negotiations minister Chris Finlayson says it's important that a treaty settlement for far north iwi be concluded as soon as possible.

A Ngati Kahu group lifted its occupation of a coastal section at Taipa yesterday, removing what could have been an obstacle to settlement.

Mr Finlayson says he toured the Ngati Kahu rohe with lead negotiator Margaret Mutu soon after taking on the treaty role, and saw first hand and saw the run down marae, houses with no proper insulation and inadequate water.

“I know that a good treaty settlement is going to do wonders up there. In fact I said to Margaret at the beginning of last year, you don’t need to wait on the treaty settlement because you can get access to marae development funds, we could get some of your guys trained up as carpenters and we could get in there and do it straight away. No one’s ever come back to me,” Mr Finlayson says.


After two decades of battling through the courts, Rangitane and Ngai Tahu have called a truce on a dispute over customary rights to parts of the top of the South Island.

Rangitane negotiator Richard Bradley says the accord was announced during the signing of his tribe's $25 million deed of settlement with the Crown at at Omaka marae near Blenheim on Saturday.

He says Ngai Tahu chair Mark Solomon was able to offer some welcome lessons from his own tribe's settlement.

“He was quite clear that what settlements are about is giving our people a hand up, not a hand out and the Crown still has responsibilities. Those mainstream government departments with programmes like Whanau Ora, to actually start distributing some of the investments that Maori people have made as taxpayers into those communities,” Mr Bradley says.

Rangitane's settlement includes an acknowledgement from the Crown that Rangitane had taken a smaller settlement because of the current economic situation.


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