Many Maori view the dismissal of their rights in order to set-up the Kermadec ocean sanctuary as the "thin edge of the wedge", the Government has been told.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith has repeatedly cited the strong support for the new protection from Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri, the two northern iwi with connections to the Kermadec Islands.

That support has been important, after concerns were raised about Maori fishing rights, culminating in the Maori Fisheries Trust, Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOK), taking legal action.

Te Aupouri chair Rick Witana today appeared before a packed select committee meeting and said its support was conditional on a solution being worked out to the satisfaction of TOK.


"We support the proposal in principle, but it is qualified support. Had Te Aupouri been consulted and engaged with in a meaningful way instead of the cursory treatment we received...then today's presentation could have been different," said Mr Witana, who also advocated for any sanctuary to be called the Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, after the Maori name for Raoul Island.

Maori unhappiness has taken the shine off the Kermadec sanctuary project, which was announced by Prime Minister John Key at the United Nations.

The protected area will be twice the size of New Zealand's land mass and 50 times the size of the country's largest national park.

Two fisheries settlements in 1989 and 1992 granted Maori control over one-third of New Zealand's commercial fisheries.

However, the Government has reasoned that because there is little viable commercial fishing in the area, no compensation need be paid.

TOK chairman Jamie Tuuta said the legislation being considered to establish the sanctuary undermined the fisheries settlement, "and consequently undermines the integrity of Treaty settlements in general".

"It expropriates property rights and Maori fishing rights without consent...the 1992 fisheries settlement was full and final. Maori did not enter into that agreement lightly. And there is good reason for that - the Maori negotiators knew they were signing away all claims to their customary rights to fisheries, both commercial and non-commercial."

Mr Tuuta said the consultation from Government had been derisory, and had turned a "win, win" situation into one that had deeply disappointed many Maori.

Dr Smith said the fisheries settlement was "incredibly important", but it was always the Government's right to provide for no-take marine reserves.

"While I accept that the Kermadec's on a physical scale is very large, the amount of actual commercial fishing in that area is very, very small. And so I do not accept that the Kermadec ocean sanctuary is a breach of that settlement.

"I am wide open to discussion. I'm disappointed that these matters are appearing before the courts, and my door remains wide open to discussions."

Earlier during the committee hearings and in a heated exchange, Bronwen Golder of the Pew Charitable Trusts denied her organisation was advocating for the Government to override Maori rights.

Labour's fisheries spokesman Rino Tirikatene singled out Pew for criticism, when the charity made a joint submission in favour of the sanctuary with Forest and Bird and WWF.

"What gives your organisation the authority to paddle in to our EEZ [exclusive economic zone] and determine what Maori rights are to fish?" Mr Tirikatene asked Ms Golder.

Many Maori considered it disgraceful that a "foreign-funded NGO can come into our sovereign country of Aotearoa and dictate and lobby, with vast amounts of wealth," he said.

"Sir, with due respect, I am a New Zealander," Ms Golder said. "I'm also a Treaty partner. I do not come here as a foreign imperialist or any of the other names that certain people have cared to call [us]."