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Govt to discuss sanctuary with Maori Party

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/09/2016

The government and the Maori Party are going to look for a way through the impasse over the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, and in the meantime the legislation setting it up will be delayed.

The Maori Fisheries Trust, which considers the 620,000 square kilometre sanctuary 1000km north-east of New Zealand will breach treaty settlements, on Wednesday said its negotiations with the government had broken down.

That put the Maori Party in a difficult position, and raised questions over whether it would continue to support the government.

Prime Minister John Key announced there would be further discussions with the Maori Party.

"It's not going to pull its support, what it wants to do is find a way forward," he told reporters.

"Let's take a step back, let cool heads prevail, let's have discussions to find a way through ... the legislation is going to be delayed until we find a way through."

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said Mr Key had made the offer to discuss the problem, and his party had accepted it.

"We are disappointed, but we have a commitment from the prime minister to get back to the table ... there's still a long way to go, but we are hopeful," he said.

"We have a good relationship on the basis of being able to talk to each other."

The government has the numbers to pass the bill without the Maori Party because the Greens support it despite misgivings about the way the government has dealt with Maori concerns..

Meanwhile government ally ACT has withdrawn its support.

David Seymour, ACT's only MP, says fishing operators, Maori and non-Maori, will lose their rights without compensation.

Trust chairman Jamie Tuuta said High Court action over the sanctuary would continue, and a formal complaint would be made to the Waitangi Tribunal about fishing rights.

The government has made some changes to the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, including providing a dual name, putting Maori on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board and providing for their inclusion in a 25 year review.

But Mr Tuuta said if the bill was passed it would nullify existing Maori settlement rights without consent.

"They are taking away real rights that are an important part of the first treaty settlement and thereby risking every treaty settlement which has followed."

Environment Minister Nick Smith says the Maori claims that the sanctuary will undermine the treaty are wrong, and the government has always retained the right to create protected areas where fishing is banned.

He says the trust is over-stating the consequences of the sanctuary being set up.

"Maori have caught more than three million tonnes under the fisheries settlement from 1992, but not a single tonne in the Kermadecs," he said.

Dr Smith said making an exception would set a poor precedent..

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