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Progress made in Kermadec talks

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/09/2016

The Maori Party and the Maori Fisheries Trust are going to work together to find a way through the impasse over the over the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

After a meeting on Monday both sides indicated progress had been made following the breakdown in negotiations between the trust and the government last week.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox and trust chairman Jamie Tuuta said they were confident the process could be worked through.

After negotiations between the trust and Environment Minister Nick Smith collapsed, Prime Minister John Key offered to work with the Maori Party and take a fresh look at the issues.

The trust, which represents iwi interests, wants to retain the right to fish in the 620,000 square kilometre sanctuary which is about 1000km north-east of New Zealand.

That right was granted in the 1992 fisheries settlement, but Maori have never fished there.

Dr Smith last week told parliament negotiations broke down because the trust wanted Maori to be specifically exempted from the fishing ban in the sanctuary.

He said that would undermine its integrity.

It's been suggested a compromise could involve the right being maintained, linked with a legal commitment not to fish in the sanctuary.

Monday's meeting was the first step in finding a compromise.

The next step will involve re-opening negotiations between the government and the trust.

The bill that creates the sanctuary, which passed its first reading unanimously, has been put on hold until a solution can be found.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English on Monday indicated the government could soften its stance.

He said it was accepted that there had to be "some movement, somewhere" for a compromise to be reached.

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