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Iwi leaders underwhelmed by foreshore deal

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, June 15 NZPA - The Maori Party is hailing the decision to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act as a victory but some iwi leaders aren't happy with the replacement legislation and one MP is accusing Prime Minister John Key of "pandering to rednecks".

Mr Key and Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia called a joint press conference yesterday to announce agreement had been reached on repealing the Act and the legislation that will replace it.

The deal will remove the foreshore and seabed from Crown ownership and make it public space owned by no one.

The term "public domain" which the Government had proposed has been dropped because of Maori protests, but public space means the same thing.

A suitable term to describe it in English and te reo is being sought.

The deal means Maori will be able to seek customary rights and customary title through the courts or by negotiating with the Government.

Customary title confers development rights and some mineral rights, but sale is forbidden and public access is guaranteed.

To be able to claim customary title, iwi will have to prove exclusive use and occupation since 1840.

Mr Key thrashed out the agreement at a meeting yesterday morning with the Maori Party and iwi leaders.

After it had been announced, the chairman of the Iwi Leaders Group, Mark Solomon, said the "wish list" hadn't been delivered and indicated representatives considered the replacement legislation was work in progress.

Waikato Tainui chairman Tukoroirangi Morgan said agreement had been reached on "important matters of principle" that provided a foundation for further work, and Ngapuhi's Sonny Tau spoke of "significant gains" and a need to move forward.

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira's reaction was in stark contrast to that of his party's co-leaders.

"What Maori people were really after was Maori title...Maori aren't going to get the title so I'm gutted about that," he said.

"I'm disappointed, but not surprised, that the prime minister wasn't bold enough to do the right thing and I'm disappointed that he chose to pander to the rednecks rather than give Maori the justice we deserve."

The Labour Party said the replacement legislation was almost identical to proposals the Government published months ago.

"This is clearly a face saving exercise for the Maori Party," said Labour's shadow attorney-general David Parker.

"There is no difference between vesting the foreshore and seabed in 'public space' and vesting it in the 'public domain' - a concept the Maori Party had said they were adamantly against."

Mr Parker said the announcement was "largely a smoke and mirrors exercise with name changes".

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