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Govt Only To Support UN Declaration If NZ Law Remains Paramount

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Simon Power
Simon Power

Wellington, July 22 NZPA - The Government will endorse a United Nations declaration on indigenous people's rights only if it does not trump New Zealand's constitutional framework and law, Justice Minister Simon Power said today.

The Government was still looking to endorse the declaration, but it did raise complex issues, Mr Power told Parliament's Maori affairs select committee.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples recently jumped the gun saying New Zealand would support the declaration on indigenous rights, but Mr Power confirmed today no decision had been made.

There were a number of areas in the declaration which the Government had to ensure were not interpreted in a way to suggest that the UN document overrode New Zealand law.

One part could be taken to meant that Maori would have to give full informed consent to laws being passed in Parliament.

Mr Power said this would override New Zealand's democratic institutions.

Another part could be interpreted as saying Maori had the right to occupy all land they had before colonisation or receive full compensation for it.

Mr Power said the Government had never offered full compensation, but only fair settlements under the Treaty of Waitangi grievance process.

New Zealand law and constitutional instruments such as the treaty had to remain paramount.

The declaration was an aspirational non-binding document and unlike a treaty governments did not sign up to them, he said.

Instead governments issued a statement supporting the declaration.

Mr Power said the Government was taking care with its statement because it intended international commitments to be taken seriously

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

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

The vote 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.

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