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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Iwi ready for constitutional talks

Iwi from around the country have created a working group to provide an independent counterpoint to the constitutional review.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples today announced that a cross-party group of MPs would conduct the review, which would look at the size of Parliament, Maori seats and the role of the Treaty of Waitangi.

An advisory panel will be appointed to support the MPs, but work won't really start until after next year's election.

Lawyer Moana Jackson from Ngati Kahungunu says Maori aren't waiting, and iwi and urban groups are calling on people with experience in constitutional issues.

“The Crown review is quite limited in its potential scope whereas we want to be as broad ranging really as our people want to be so I’m a bit nervous about the process because it is a bit new for our people but also really excited about this one,” Mr Jackson says.

The group's first meeting in Auckland this weekend will include Carwyn Jones, who has just returned from doctoral studies in Canada, and Catherine Davis from Te Rarawa, who spent six months at the United Nation Human Rights Commission in Geneva.


Prime minister John Key says the decision to bring Hekia Parata into cabinet will give a role model for young Maori women.

The promotion to fill the women's affairs and ethnic affairs portfolios vacated by Pansy Wong came after the list MP's strong performance in the Mana by-election.

Mr Key says the Ruatoria-born MP will be able to use her past experience as a senior official in Te Puni Kokiri and other ministries.

“She's a bit of a policy wonk really, old Hekia. She really dives into the detail and understands how to write good policy stuff. I think she’ll make a very good minister,” Mr Key says.


A far north oyster farmer says the oyster herpes virus which is killing off juvenile Pacific oysters in upper North Island harbours, has wiped out his production for this year.

Ben Waitai, who has farms in the Rangaunu and Parengarenga harbours, says most of the spat he collected in the Kaipara Harbour last summer and autumn has died off.

He says there is little to do but clean out the water space for next year's crop.

“It's a real stench like a death stench, it stinks, the whole farm. I was on there a couple of days ago and once you start removing stock, just the smell, right throughout the whole place,” Mr Waitai says.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry scientists say the virus, which poses no risk to humans, could have been triggered by warmer water temperatures.


Prime Minister John Key has poured cold water on a call to scrap with the Marine and Coastal Area Bill and just repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004.

The suggestion was contained in a submission by Maori Party MP Hone Harawira to the select committee considering the bill.

Mr Key says if the Government goes back to square one, there will never be a replacement for Labour's 2004 Act.

“People will very quickly get into election year, it will take a long time, they’ll say it is probably not worth the hassle, the 2004 legislation will bed in. In the long run, you will have a piece of legislation that that say if iwi go to the Crown and say ‘we think we have got vcustomary title in the case of the existing customary territorial rights orders, and then they don’t reach agreement with the Crown, they have no other avenue to pursue.
Mr Key says.

He says the government has put a lot of work into a solution which addresses the primary concerns of Maori while codifying existing precedents around customary title.


Maori lawyer Moana Jackson says going on past history, Maori may have the most to fear from the increased powers the Government intends to give the Security Intelligence Service.

The Prime Minister, John Key, says the bill covering electronic tracking, accessing computers, and tapping into internet and cell phone communications needs to be passed before the Rugby World Cup.

Mr Jackson says it is profoundly undemocratic that submissions will be heard in secret

“If now the SIS gets these extended secret powers, then experience shows that Maori may well be disproportionately affected by that. The sort of korero that happens at hui when people talk about the Crown the sort of frank and direct discussions that people have on the marae may well be subject to surveillance,” Mr Jackson says.

The use of anti-terrorism laws by Police in the Operation 8 surveillance near Ruatoki in 2007 was a stark lesson for Maori about how such powers can be used.


Ngati Rangi of the upper Whanganui River has laid to rest their whaea Morna Taute, who died on Saturday at the age of 75.

Mrs Taute was the turanga Maori or Maori theological worker for the Wellington Catholic Diocese.

Her daughter, Hira Downes, says her mother left school at 14, but a lifetime of voluntary and community service allowed her to make a substantial contribution to the team around Archbishop John Dew.

“I think she brought a lot of new and different things to their lives, probably making them more aware of our ways, as iwi, opening up their vision. The tributes to her have been really wonderful and a lot of it’s been an eye-opener to use because we didn’t really know about the way she drew people in the way she did,” Mrs Downes says.

The tangi ended today at Tirohanga Marae at Karioi south of Ohakune.


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