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Government To Endorse UN Indigenous Rights Declaration

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Pita Sharples
Pita Sharples

Wellington, July 7 NZPA - The Government is set to endorse a United Nations declaration on indigenous rights -- reversing the position of the former Labour government.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, who is also Maori Affairs Minister, said an announcement would be made within a month.

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

He downplayed the effect of agreeing to the declaration in terms of providing new rights or self-determination.

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.

But the then Maori affairs minister Parekura Horomia said there were articles in the declaration giving indigenous people a right of veto others did not have.

He also said New Zealand was far ahead of other countries in terms of promoting the rights of indigenous people and the Waitangi Tribunal already provided an appropriate system of redress.

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.

"It's not about any goodies or anything ..."

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 ...

"Self-determination means an expression of our way of life within the mainstream whole overall picture."

Earlier this year Prime Minister John 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," Mr Key said.

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