Don Brash has been accused of "scaremongering" ahead of a National Party campaign starting today likely to oppose handing 13 lakebeds back to Rotorua iwi Te Arawa.

Dr Brash and his deputy leader, Gerry Brownlee, will in Rotorua this morning outline National's policy on the Te Arawa lakes deal.

They will then question the Government in Parliament this week on whether its lakebed negotiations with Te Arawa include airspace and water rights.

The campaign follows Dr Brash last week speaking out against plans by Taupo iwi Ngati Tuwharetoa to charge commercial operators for using the airspace over Lake Taupo.

Dr Brash has already indicated his opposition to Te Arawa being given title to the lakebed, water and airspace rights to settle their Treaty of Waitangi claim.

Te Arawa Maori Trust Board, which is in negotiations with the Government over its claim, would not comment on the talks.

But a source linked to the board believed the Opposition leader was "scaremongering".

"He's trying to fuel anger when there shouldn't be any and yet again he's playing the race card.

"In Te Arawa we are getting on with the business, and like Tuwharetoa, we are saying that the public has nothing to fear."

The Tuwharetoa Trust Board, which owns the bed of Lake Taupo, hit back at Dr Brash's claims that its plans were "PC nonsense" and "confirm for many New Zealanders that the treaty industry has gone too far".

Secretary Rakeipoho Taiaroa said Tuwharetoa were only exercising their property rights, as any property owner would, when someone else sought to use that property for commercial gain.

"The Crown, local councils and private property owners charge commercial operators who use their land," he said.

Suggestions by Dr Brash that Tuwharetoa's plans would increase the cost of airfares for planes flying over Lake Taupo were ridiculous, Mr Taiaroa said. "The public has nothing to fear. A free public right of access for recreational use of the lake and its waters was guaranteed under a 1926 agreement between the Crown and Tuwharetoa and was reconfirmed by the 1992 agreement [with the then National government]."

But Tuwharetoa does believe its property rights extend to structures in or above the water, and not connected to the lakebed.

Auckland property rights lawyer Bruce Galloway, of Kensington Swan, said charging for airspace was not a new concept.

"Under common law, property owners own the airspace above their land, but not necessarily to the level of the heavens.

"People who invade that airspace without permission can be seen to be trespassing."

Herald Feature: Maori issues

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