National to dump Maori seats in 2014

By Yvonne Tahana

National wants to scrap the Maori seats in Parliament once all historical Treaty settlements are sorted.

By the party's timeline that process could start in 2014.

Leader John Key released Treaty negotiations, Maori affairs and electoral law policies yesterday.

Under the first, the party wants to settle all historical Treaty settlements by 2014. The electoral policy would see the seven Maori seats abolished once that is accomplished.

Mr Key said sorting out Treaty issues was an important "milestone" that had to be reached before any constitutional change could happen.

While the target had been set there were variables that could impede on that timeline, including the claims laid before the September 1 deadline.

Putting Treaty issues to one side, Maori had the same concerns as the rest of the country and that's why one franchise would eventually be the way to go, Mr Key said.

"The vast bulk of aspirations are identical to the beliefs of non-Maori New Zealanders. At the forefront of that is greater economic prosperity, greater opportunity through education, greater security."

This morning, Mr Key said he didn't think seven Maori MPs should deal with all the Maori issues.

"If all 120 members are on a universal franchise, one country, one voting franchise, then all 120 members of parliament have to take a keen and active interest for their constituents," he said.

"Maori leaders themselves have been saying there will be a time when the Maori seats are no longer required.

"They may disagree with our timing, but the fundamental principle they don't disagree with."

Treaty Settlement

National also wanted to move the Office of Treaty Settlement, which negotiates on behalf of the Crown, from operating within the Ministry of Justice to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

That would give greater "grunt" to speeding up the settlement process.

Mr Key wouldn't say what the policy would do to National's relationship with the Maori Party, which may be one of the kingmakers after the election.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said finalising claims shouldn't be placed on a tight timeframe for reasons of political expediency. It was about securing justice for iwi and the Crown recognising its bad behaviour.

"The Maori seats for us are about the Treaty relationship and that's quite different to Treaty settlement. It's about power sharing. They think again that they can deny us the right to participate. If they want a relationship with the Maori Party then very clearly they're starting off on the wrong foot," Ms Turia said.

Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said the Government's 2020 target was more realistic to achieving durable settlements. Scrapping the seats would also see a lessening of services to Maori.

"I think the issue is really, 'Here we go again'. I think it's trying to find a platform to non-Maori that [the seats are] a free ride for Maori. It smacks of those things Maori are irrelevant."

The seats provided certainty to the minority - Maori - and that's why it was important to retain them, he said.

National MP Tau Henare, who once held the Te Tai Tokerau Maori seat for New Zealand First, said it wasn't hypocritical that he now supported getting rid of the seats.

He said because he held the seat, he was better placed than most to talk about the "ghettoising" effect of the Maori roll - where those MPs were expected to have concern for or speak on only Maori issues, nothing else.

Helen Clark this morning said any attempt to get rid of the Maori seats would cause problems.

She told Newstalk ZB: "I have a huge problem with a Pakeha majority in a New Zealand Parliament legislating away the Maori seats."

"For a party like the National Party, a right-wing party which has had very little Maori support ever, to just say 'we're getting rid of those seats' ... if you want a recipe for friction between communities in our electorates, go that way."


PARTY'S AGENDA FOR MAORI

MAORI AFFAIRS POLICY
* Education - Expand the Te Kotahitanga professional development programme, include kohanga reo in the 20 hours' free education subsidy.
* Health - Provide delegated funding to enable Maori health providers to deliver a wider range of services.
* Housing - Expand papakainga housing (homes on Maori-owned land), work with Maori collectives to explore ways of increasing home ownership.
* Review the Te Ture Whenua Act 1993.
* Reform the Resource Management Act to promote growth in the aquaculture industry.

TREATY NEGOTIATIONS POLICY
* Aim to clear all historical Treaty settlements by 2014.
* Move the Office of Treaty Settlements from the Justice Ministry to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
* Appoint independent settlement facilitators to chair negotiations to keep process moving forward.
* Review operation of the Waitangi Tribunal to allow it to sit full-time.
* Review crown conduct in litigation to speed up settlement process.
* Honour agreements made under the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

ELECTORAL LAW POLICY
* Wind up the Maori seats at the conclusion of the settlement of historic Treaty claims.

- NZ Herald

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