Minister 'disappointed' in law suit, Maori lay out concerns on Kermadec ocean sanctuary bill

Minister for the Environment Nick Smith does not accept there has been a Treaty breach.
FAIRFAX NZ

Minister for the Environment Nick Smith does not accept there has been a Treaty breach.

Environment Minister Nick Smith says he is uncomfortable with the "tension" between the Government and Maori over the Kermadec ocean sanctuary.

A select committee listened to arguments from iwi against the establishment of the marine protected area. Iwi have said the sanctuary would extinguish Maori fishing rights.

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

However, he would not divulge what solutions he would offer, preferring to tell iwi "face to face".

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A humpback whale and her calf migrating through Kermadec waters.
MALCOLM FRANCIS

A humpback whale and her calf migrating through Kermadec waters.

 

Although Smith said he was open to finding "a way through some of the challenges", he was committed to the sanctuary.

"I have to state, though, that a key goal in those discussions has to be New Zealand stepping up internationally and setting aside portions of our ocean space for nature just in the same way as forebears like Chief Te Heuheu had the wisdom 130 years ago to establish the Tongariro National Park on land. 

Te Aupouri runanga chairman Rick Witana was invited to speak at the announcement of the Kermadec bill's introduction to ...
ROSANNA PRICE/FAIRFAX NZ

Te Aupouri runanga chairman Rick Witana was invited to speak at the announcement of the Kermadec bill's introduction to parliament in March.

"Today Maori and Pakeha need to have the wisdom to set aside areas of ocean for protection."

CONDITIONAL SUPPORT 

One of the iwi who supported the sanctuary, Te Aupouri, has since clarified it's position: its support was subject to the resolution of iwi fishing rights.

Sir Tipene O'Regan backs the call for Maori to oppose the Kermadec ocean sanctuary bill as it stands.

Sir Tipene O'Regan backs the call for Maori to oppose the Kermadec ocean sanctuary bill as it stands.

Te Aupouri chair Rick Witana also wanted more say for iwi in how the sanctuary was run.

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He proposed a name change to 'Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary' and wanted scientific research applications in the area to be approved by iwi.

In addition to the two seats Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri will secure on the board, he wanted another seat for Maori to be appointed by Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Trust). The conservation minister would elect the other three seats.

"In our view, the Kermadec sanctuary does not have to be one thing or the other," Witana said.

"It can achieve the protection measures desired by the Crown as well as respect and recognise the rights and interests of iwi and Maori."

Te Ohu Kaimoana have brought a law suit against the Government for overriding Maori rights as written into the 1992 Fisheries Settlement.

Te Ohu Kaimoana chair Jamie Tuuta said there were no sustainability benefits to the sanctuary.

"The measures in the bill are based on a flawed assessment of fisheries and fishing rights and fails to recognise the true value of fisheries there.

"Further it expropriates property rights and Maori fishing rights without consent."

The minister did not believe there was any Treaty breach.

SEAFOOD NZ WANT COMPENSATION

Seafood New Zealand chairman George Clement said the company would be seeking compensation from the Government because of the loss of access.

He said "some form of redress" would be sought.

"We think it's only fair that discussions yet to occur need not be onerous or fiscally numerous," he said.

Clement also said there needed to be broad-based consultation with the fishing sector.

In its submission, Seafood NZ said advice to the Government was wrong in stating a "no compensation" approach was consistent with the law.

"The Marine Reserves Act is silent on compensation, thereby allowing affected parties to put forward a case for compensation under New Zealand law," said the submission.

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS

Representatives from environmental groups Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF, and Forest and Bird, highlighted the vast amount of support the sanctuary had received.

WWF recently polled support for the sanctuary at almost 90 per cent.

WWF New Zealand senior campaigner Alex Smith said fishing industry arguments lacked a factual basis.

He said the industry was "completely out of touch" with what Kiwis wanted.  

Pew Foundation New Zealand director Bronwen Golder also deflected heated questions from Labour MP Rino Tirikatene.

Tirikatene told Golder that many Maori considered it "disgraceful that a foreign funded NGO can come into our sovereign country of Aotearoa and dictate or lobby with vast amounts of wealth".

He asked how Pew could be respectful of indigenous rights while proposing the overriding of Maori fishing rights.

"We are proposing the protection of the marine diversity of the Kermadec ocean region consistent with the wishes and aspiration of all New Zealanders, including the peoples of Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri," Golder said.

"With due respect, I am a New Zealander, I'm also a Treaty partner," she said.

"I do not come here as a foreign imperialist or any of the other names that certain people have cared to call [me and others]."

 - Stuff

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