Valuable New Zealand research could head overseas if complicated consultation with Maori groups means research is delayed, the Waitangi Tribunal was told yesterday.
Association of Crown Research Institute's executive director Anthony Scott, who addressed the tribunal hearing a claim by Maori to native flora and fauna, said industry could be hurt if scientists saw overseas as a better option for research.
The claim, known as Wai 262, calls for exclusive and comprehensive rights to indigenous flora and fauna, as well as all Maori cultural knowledge, customs and practices.
Mr Scott said the association - an umbrella organisation for Crown research companies such as the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research and GNS Science - had no opinion one way or the other on whether the claim should be accepted.
However, he said any decisions that were made about the claim should include a "certain" consultation procedure with relevant Maori groups so research would not be delayed with later appeals from other Maori.
New Zealand research was in a vulnerable position. Research institutes want to work with overseas peers "and be certain they have an environment which maximises their freedom to advance knowledge," he said.
"If it is easier to go overseas to study, then they will do that."
The claim was lodged by members of six iwi - Ngati Kuri, Ngati Wai, Te Rarawa, Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Koata.
The hearing is expected to last for two weeks.