12.15pm



Maori activists have vowed to occupy beaches and clutter up courts in anger at the Government's moves to curtail their rights to the foreshore and seabed.



Activist Ken Mair, a key figure in the 1995 occupation of Moutua Gardens in Wanganui, issued the threat after meeting Maori MPs in Wellington last night.



The Government angered Maori last week when it said it would legislate to clarify the law after the Court of Appeal ruled Maori may have a case for claiming customary title of the foreshore and seabed.

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Crown access to the foreshore could now be cut off by Maori occupation, Mr Mair said.



"We are looking at occupying and cutting off crown access to our beaches -- not the general public, or the local community's access to the beaches," he said.



Blocking up the courts with applications to the Maori Land Court was another course being considered, he said.



"We are certainly not going to have our grandchildren, our mokopuna, in a position where they will have no ownership or use rights in regard to the foreshore and seabed," he said.



Direct action would be taken in consultation with Maori. He would not say when it could take place.



"The timeline will not be set by the Crown or Government, the timeline will be set by our people ... to highlight this intolerable position taken by the Crown."



Mr Mair, Annette Sykes, Moana Jackson, Tame Iti, Hone Harawira and Angeline Greensill were among those who met Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia, associate minister John Tamihere, Tariana Turia, Dave Hereora and Mahara Okeroa last night.



Maori MPs were very clear that it was a significant issue and that "it is a very defining moment in the history of us as a people", Mr Mair said.



Maori MPs had no choice but to influence senior cabinet colleagues or resign, Mr Mair said.



"You can not remain in a government that is about to take away and confiscate and thieve our lands."



Mr Horomia, who fronted the media on behalf of Maori MPs, said MPs had been told what hapu and iwi were saying.



"They commended us on the stand we have taken, but certainly there are some very clear challenges ahead," he said.



"I think I can say on behalf of the Maori MPs... we are trying to do our best for our constituents.



"We are very clear on our people's issues and rights."



The MPs were told to prevent further loss of land and to ensure rights to it were not extinguished.



"We will try to ensure that the best spot is created for our people for the future generations. That's quite simple."



Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen is overseeing the issue for the Government as it endeavours to find what it called a "win-win" solution.



The Government fears granting customary title to Maori could lead to sole ownership and then eventual sale of the foreshore, with people being denied access.



It has faced waves of Maori anger and claims it is going to legislate to extinguish indigenous rights.



The Government has said:



* it will act to uphold rights of public access to, and use of, the foreshore and seabed;



* it will act to protect Maori customary rights, to the extent they are not already;



* a group of senior ministers will discuss with the Maori caucus, which has an electoral mandate to represent Maori, how to reconcile these two interests;



* resolving these issues will require legislation.



Associate Maori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia today said the Maori caucus would be representing Maori interests in a meeting with senior ministers tomorrow night.



"We haven't only had representations from the tino rangatiratanga group. We've had representations from leaders and others right throughout the country and that's what we'll be taking to the table," she told National Radio.



Mrs Turia understood Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, Treaty Negotiations Minister Margaret Wilson, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton and Conservation Minister Chris Carter would be at the meeting.



Dr Cullen today told reporters there was a feeling among "some people" there was no need for legislation over the seabed and foreshore issue but he doubted that was the feeling of most of the population.



Mrs Turia had raised doubts about the need for legislation but there was a process to be worked through, he said.



Asked about the meeting tomorrow with Labour's Maori MPs, Dr Cullen said he hoped to get a clear understanding of the "range of views, options, possiblities, a process around moving forward from there to a series of resolutions".



"Obviously, it's not desirable that this carries on forever because it's holding up other things like the aquaculture legislation, marine reserves legislation, all of which are important pieces of legislation."



However, there was an opportunity to understand some important issues.



The Government " won't be rushing" to resolve the matter but would take the time to work through the issues, he said.



- NZPA