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Government handling of Kermadecs threatens Treaty rights

The Government has failed to honour the Treaty of Waitangi over the proposed Kermadec Sanctuary, creating concern for all iwi about their settlements, says Labour’s Conservation and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations spokesperson, Nanaia Mahuta.

“Labour supports the creation of the marine sanctuary in the Kermadecs, however we have serious concerns about the Government’s failure to consider its impact on Treaty rights.

“Conservation Minister Nick Smith failed to consult iwi and bring Māori on board when removing their ability to access fish quota. The loss of Treaty settlement assets and quota rights is an important matter of principle. The Minister should never have removed the right to claim compensation in court and we recognise that the broader fishing industry are challenging this decision.

“Te Ohu Kaimoana rejected the Sanctuary proposal and we supported their decision to take legal action because we believe it is wrong that the bill undermines the rights arising from the Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Act 1992. Full and final used to mean full and final, but not under this Government.

“This is a warning to all iwi that under National, Treaty of Waitangi settlements are under threat and are not full and final as stipulated in legislation.

“The Fisheries settlement has been tossed overboard because the Government failed to include Māori from the start of the process. A responsible and honourable Minister would have worked in partnership with iwi and Te Ohu Kaimoana to find a workable solution that promoted the sanctuary while protecting Treaty rights.

“Māori input would have covered the conservation aspects and protected existing and future Treaty rights.

“Labour also has serious concerns about fishing rights which were derived from the 1992 Fisheries Treaty Settlement that have been overridden by poor Government process.

“We also think the Government should have consulted and engaged much earlier with mana whenua and organisations such as Te Ohu Kaimoana for a much smoother legislative process,” Nanaia Mahuta says.