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No final decision on indigenous rights - govt

Last updated 14:30 07/07/2009

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Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples seems to have jumped the gun saying New Zealand would support an international declaration on indigenous rights – with the Government saying today it has not reached a final decision.

Dr Sharples, who is also a Maori Party co-leader, said today an announcement on the United Nations declaration would be made within a month.

"It'll be. . . ratifying it or supporting it for New Zealand," Dr Sharples told Radio New Zealand today.

Supporting the declaration would reverse the position of the former Labour government.

But a spokesman for Prime Minister John Key said this afternoon New Zealand's position on the declaration was "still a work in progress".

A final decision has not been made, he said.

New Zealand was among just four countries which last year voted against the non-binding declaration of the UN General Assembly that sets out the rights of the world's estimated 370 million indigenous people.

The non-binding General Assembly vote in September was 143 in favour, four against and 11 abstentions.

The other negative votes were cast by Australia, Canada and the United States. Australia has, since a change of government, this year decided to support it.

After voting "no", the New Zealand government was heavily criticised by the Maori Party, the Greens and the Human Rights Commission.

Dr Sharples said Labour had missed "a golden opportunity" to support the declaration and showcase what the country did for its indigenous people.

Asked if it gave Maori any different rights, Dr Sharples said it provided recognition of the culture.

Asked if it provided the right to self-determination, Dr Sharples carefully couched what he thought that meant.

"It could lead to that. The right to self-determination means being able to have a say, a real say in determining the options available to you."

Earlier this year Mr Key said the declaration was aspirational and not legally binding.

"It is an aspirational, non-binding declaration. From this Government's point of view we take the rights of indigenous people seriously and we are working hard to advance those," he said.



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