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Maori face off over foreshore

By Audrey Young

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Some of the iwi leaders group will support the foreshore and seabed repeal bill, says Maori Affairs Minister and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples.

The bill will be on the agenda of the iwi leadership hui at Takapuwahia marae, Porirua, on Saturday.

Dr Sharples said he'd had confirmation that Tainui, Ngati Porou and Te Whanau a Apanui were among those that supported the bill, the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill.

Ngai Tahu and Ngati Kahungunu leaders have questioned whether the Maori Party should support it.

Dr Sharples said "There is division because people hope for more than this Parliament can offer."

Four of the five Maori Party MPs believe the party should back the bill.

The bill is before the Maori affairs select committee and submissions close on November 19.

The Government has said that if it is not passed, the status quo, Labour's law, passed after the Ngati Apa Court of Appeal case, will remain in place.

The law asserted Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed and extinguished the right to claim customary title under common law.

National and the Maori Party bill sets aside Crown ownership and allows iwi to claim an ownership title if they meet specified tests.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said yesterday he believed he had got the tests right because he followed the court decision.

"What I have done is I have taken the Ngati Apa decision in 2003 and gone with that and added in a concept of tikanga."

He was willing to hear submissions on the test from those who were not happy with that.

The "tikanga" test is not a standard test of Maori tradition and practice. It means dependent on the iwi or the hapu concerned and what their practices were in that particular area.

Meanwhile, Mr Finlayson and Act leader Rodney Hide clashed in the House yesterday over criticisms by Mr Hide that customary title can be awarded by a minister under regulation with no public or parliamentary scrutiny before it is signed off.

Mr Finlayson pointed out that the bill also provides for the possibility of title to be awarded under an act.

He also pointed out that section 95 of the bill provides that copies of the agreement under an order in council (regulation) have to be sent to the Secretary for Justice who must, before it comes into effect, send copies of it to local authorities affected by the agreement; the Ministers of Conservation, Fisheries, Maori Affairs and any other parties considered to be directly affected by the agreement.

Mr Finlayson implied that Mr Hide had not read the bill or cared about the truth.

Mr Finlayson's spokesman said there was nothing unusual about the Government recognising or transferring title or property rights without a new bill being introduced to Parliament - such as offers back under the Public Works Act.

MARINE TITLE

Customary marine title exists in a particular part of the common marine and coastal area if the applicant group:

A. Holds the specified area in accordance with tikanga; and

B. Has exclusively used and occupied the specified area from 1840 to the present day without substantial interruption.

- NZ Herald

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