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Foreshore negotiations down to the wire

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Chris Ormond of NZPA

Wellington, June 11 NZPA - The Maori Party hopes an urgent meeting with Prime Minister John Key on Monday morning will bridge the gap between the Government's foreshore and seabed stance and concessions wanted by iwi leaders.

Following a hui with iwi leaders in Wellington today and a Maori Party caucus meeting, co-leader Tariana Turia said it was clear there were still points of difference between the position of the stakeholders in terms of policy proposals arising from a review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004.

The Government's stance is that it wants to repeal the law and bring the foreshore and seabed out of crown ownership and into the public domain, while reasserting the right of Maori to seek customary rights -- but not freehold title -- through the courts.

Prime Minister John Key said this week he was confident of getting an agreement with the Maori Party, which has been in ongoing discussions with iwi leaders. There was no further comment from Mr Key's office today, other than to confirm Monday's meeting.

But he has repeatedly said if the Maori Party cannot agree to the general public domain stance, the Government will simply retain 2004 legislation enacted by Labour, which leaves it in crown ownership.

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said today he wasn't going to detail where the current proposal fell short, other than to say it involved the public domain and "other issues".

"We are close, but we are not close enough to satisfy all of the parties," he said. The proposal was "not all bad...but there are certainly some concerns that have been raised by both the iwi leadership group and ourselves".

Mr Flavell said a lot of time and effort had been spent on the issue by iwi leaders and that would continue right through to National's Cabinet meeting on Monday, which could be the end of the road.

He said it was premature to talk about the potential extent of fallout between the Maori Party and National should no agreement be reached.

Getting agreement between iwi leaders was always difficult, regardless of the issue, and Mr Flavell suggested that while it was important any decisions made by the party was with the backing of iwi, the party also needed to be able to use its discretion.

"It would be disastrous if we weren't aligned with the Iwi Leadership Group, however, we are a political movement and we have to make decisions in light of the information we have in front of us."

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