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UN declaration divides Government support parties

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, April 20 NZPA - ACT leader Rodney Hide has lashed out at National for giving New Zealand's support of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people, calling it an appalling act that would divide the country and saying it breached the agreement between the two parties.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples flew to New York without publicly revealing he was to make a speech overnight announcing New Zealand would endorse the declaration.

The previous Labour Government had refused to sign, saying it was incompatible with New Zealand's constitution, legal framework and the Treaty of Waitangi.

National ministers described it as an aspirational document and was not legally binding.

In a heated debate in Parliament, Mr Hide launched into National.

"The ACT party is both shocked and appalled to find itself supporting a Government that has covertly signed up to the UN declaration."

Mr Hide said the declaration asserted that Maori had rights and privileges not enjoyed by other New Zealanders.

It was the opposite of ACT's belief of one law for all and would divide New Zealand.

He said it was naive to believe the declaration would have no legal effect and was angry that there had been no consultation with ACT.

"I am very disappointed that the prime minister has failed to honour our no surprises policy set out in the ACT/National agreement."

The Maori Party was delighted, with MP Hone Harawira saying it would lift the spirit of Maori that they acknowledged the rights of Maori.

"This country recognises the rights of women, the rights of workers, the rights of dogs, great that they can finally get around to recognising the rights of indigenous people."

Mr Harawira said he was not disappointed that it would not be legally binding.

"That was part of the whole declaration process, we all knew that going in, that was why we were so disappointed that Labour wouldn't do it when they had the opportunity.

"It was an aspirational document, we all knew that its implications in terms of domestic law was always going to be very limited but the question then has to be asked why didn't Labour do it."

Mr Harawira believed the Government's backing would help treaty claims and other matters such as ownership of the foreshore and seabed.

Labour leader Phil Goff said Mr Hide's comments marked a change in relations between National and its support parties.

"This is, I think, a point where the Government has not been able to resolve its contradictions. It has said one thing, it has tried to marry together forces which are totally opposed to each other and it has come out with something it says is meaningless. The Maori Party is trying to claim a great victory and the ACT party says it is a disgrace," Mr Goff said.

"I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold together the forces that are supporting the Government."

Mr Goff said a literal implementation of the declaration would see all land returned to Maori and them given veto right.

The Government attached a statement to the declaration making it clear that New Zealand was committed to the common objectives of the declaration and the Treaty of Waitangi and that existing legal and constitutional frameworks that underpinned New Zealand's legal system would define the bounds of engagement with the declaration.

Mr Key said it "was a nice touch" Dr Sharples was able to make announcement at UN when asked about the secrecy around the visit as for a long time the Government had made it clear it wanted to affirm the declaration and there had been "no secret" about that.

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