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Maori leaders speak out over Kermadec plan

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/04/2016 By Sarah Robson

The government's much-lauded Kermadec ocean sanctuary cuts across Maori development rights, says one of the key figures behind the landmark 1992 Treaty of Waitangi fisheries settlement.

Sir Tipene O'Reagan, along with a number of other prominent Maori leaders including Dame Tariana Turia, Sir Mark Solomon and Koro Wetere, are backing legal action being taken by Te Ohu Kaimoana - the Maori Fisheries Trust - challenging the proposed sanctuary's establishment.

If the sanctuary goes ahead, Te Ohu Kaimoana says all iwi customary commercial and non-commercial fishing rights in the huge area of ocean north-east of New Zealand would be extinguished.

That's prompted a backlash from Maori, who've also criticised the government's failure to broadly consult before the sanctuary was announced by Prime Minister John Key at the United Nations in New York last year.

Sir Tipene on Monday said he and others find it offensive that Maori rights to development, affirmed by the Treaty of Waitangi and subsequent treaty settlements, have been trampled over in this case.

"This unilateral action taken by the state without consultation is in fact a straight out traducing of the indigenous right to development," he said.

"We don't know what that right to development might concern, but we've been cut off before it can take place."

While it may not be in the economic interests of iwi to fish in the area that will be covered by the sanctuary at the moment, "it will be in the future", Sir Tipene said.

Former Maori Party co-leader Dame Tariana said she and others are "incredibly disappointed" by the government's actions.

"All of us had believed we were on a particular pathway moving forward and to now find that's not how it is today, or how it might be in the future, is incredibly concerning."

Mr Key said the Crown's view is Maori fishing rights aren't being diminished by the creation of the sanctuary.

"In so much that there are fish that could have been caught there, they're migrating species and they can be caught outside of the Kermadecs," he told reporters.

"We don't think there is an economic loss to Maori."

Mr Key said Maori haven't caught fish in the proposed sanctuary area for over a decade.

The Kermadec plan has long been supported by two iwi, Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri, which both have ties to the area.

It also has the backing of environmental organisations like Forest and Bird and WWF-New Zealand.

The legislation to create the sanctuary unanimously passed its first reading in parliament last month.

No hearing dates for Te Ohu Kaimoana's court action have yet been set.

Mr Key said it's unlikely that will be put on hold while the court case plays out.

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