Maori MP sees repeal bonanza

By Hamish McNeilly -

A Maori Party MP is hoping to strike oil if the Foreshore and Seabed Act is repealed, saying it could give Maori a percentage of mineral claims.

But an oil lobbyist is warning against the move.

Te Tai Tonga MP Rahui Katene said the Maori Party wanted the act repealed and replaced with a law recognising the right of Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi to the foreshore and seabed - and a stake in any future mineral claim.

This would "future-proof" Maori, but protect the foreshore and seabed for all New Zealanders, she said.

As part of the party's confidence and supply agreement with the Government, a ministerial review panel on the Foreshore and Seabed Act is holding meetings around the country.

They began in Bluff yesterday.

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association executive officer John Pfahlert said yesterday he had lodged a submission to the review panel expressing the concerns of association members. These concerns included Maori obtaining exclusive access to exploration areas and the right to veto mineral permit holders.

"Future returns might be put at risk if nominated Maori had veto rights on access," the submission says.

Oil and gas explorers now negotiate only with the Crown.

But if the act is repealed, they might have to negotiate access rights with Maori.

"If the Crown decides to review the Foreshore and Seabed Act so the effect is to alienate certain foreshore and seabed by providing exclusive title to Maori, there is a genuine risk that our sector will not be able to effectively gain access to areas of exploration and production," Mr Pfahlert said.

The petroleum industry is this year expected to generate more than $3 billion for the New Zealand economy. Royalty payments to the Government are expected to exceed $700 million.

The closing date for submissions on the review is May 19.

WHAT AND WHERE

The Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004:

* Foreshore and seabed is the area between high water springs and the outer limit of the territorial sea.
* It includes the air space and water space above the land, and the subsoil, bedrock and other matters below.
* The act vests the full legal and beneficial ownership of the public foreshore and seabed in the Crown.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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