Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Legal action over Kermadec sanctuary held off after Maori Party talks

View from Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands.
View from Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands.

Te Ohu Kaimoana will hold off on legal action over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary while the Maori Party and the Government try to salvage a solution to the impasse over the sanctuary.

Talks between Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Commission) and the Government collapsed last week and TOKM said it intended to progress with legal action to try to stop the removal of Maori fishing rights by the legislation setting up the sanctuary.

After meeting with the Maori Party today, Te Ohu Kaimoana chairman Jamie Tuuta said TOKM would meet soon to discuss that legal action, but it had undertaken to work with the Maori Party to see if talks with the Government could get anywhere first.

He said his meeting with the Maori Party was very positive and they had promised to advocate with "some vigour."

"We've got to have some confidence we can work through a process and see where we land.

What the Maori Party are doing here is facilitating and brokering discussions. They're clear on what our position is and they've given a commitment that they'll work through a process to see where it goes."

Prime Minister John Key has put the Kermadecs legislation on hold while talks are held after the Maori Party said it would consider dropping its support agreement with National over the issue.

Fox said the talks with TOKM were "profitable" and meetings with National would be held soon.

"It made sure we are all on the same page. We are supporting TOKM's stance round the breach of Treaty rights and we are now working to establish a timeframe for talks with the Government."

Those talks are likely to be led by Key and deputy Prime Minister Bill English with Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson taking a key role.

The Iwi Collective has called for Environment Minister Nick Smith to be sidelined because his involvement could be counterproductive. Smith has taken most the blame for the failure to consult with TOKM prior to the sanctuary being announced.

Tuuta said there were different views on who should be involved.

"Ultimately we want to achieve the outcome we want and our message to the Maori Party is if they persist in getting a constructive outcome, whomever's involved, then we will be comfortable with that."

Government ministers have taken a softer line on the issue since the abandonment of talks.

This morning Acting Prime Minister Bill English said concessions will need to be made to reach an agreement over the Kermadec sanctuary.

Smith was more combative in his comments last week - saying he would not change how consultation on the sanctuary was carried out if he had the time again.

Bill English says the government is confident the dispute over the Kermadec sanctuary can be resolved. Photo / supplied.
Bill English says the government is confident the dispute over the Kermadec sanctuary can be resolved. Photo / supplied.

This morning, English said the government likely would do things differently.

"I think if you did it again, you might do it a bit differently," he told Radio New Zealand.

"We haven't thought about that a great detail...the circumstances at the time meant we proceeded a bit differently than we usually do.

"I can't recall all the detail, but the prime minister was going off to the UN to make an announcement. This is the way it was done. We accept that that has created a situation where we haven't got the agreement of all the parties concerned."

Asked if concessions would need to be made, English said "there has to be some movement somewhere".

On Thursday, Smith said he did not think he would do things differently if he could approach the sanctuary consultation and announcement again.

"No. Not particularly. My experience with marine protected areas is they are always bumpy. They are always very my view, everybody is in favour of sanctuaries except where they affect them."

- Additional reporting: Nicholas Jones

- NZ Herald

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