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Put ocean sanctuary bill on hold: Labour

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/04/2016

Labour is urging the government to put legislation creating the Kermadec ocean sanctuary on hold until the outcome of a legal challenge by Maori is determined.

Te Ohu Kaimoana - the Maori Fisheries trust - says the sanctuary will extinguish all iwi customary, commercial and non-commercial rights in the huge area north-east of New Zealand.

The challenge is supported by prominent Maori including Sir Tipene O'Reagan, Dame Tariana Turia, Sir Mark Solomon and Koro Wetere.

The government says Maori haven't fished there for more than a decade and their rights aren't being diminished.

"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," Prime Minister John Key said on Monday.

He said it was unlikely the legislation would be put on hold while the court case plays out.

No date for the hearing has been set.

Labour says the government shouldn't run roughshod over over Maori interests.

"The government must not extinguish treaty rights by legislation," environment spokesman David Parker said on Tuesday.

"Labour supports Te Ohu Kaimoana's legal challenge being determined before this legislation proceeds - the Crown must allow this to happen and honour the outcome."

The party's Maori development spokesman, Kelvin Davis, says the decision to create the sanctuary was made "in secret" with only a feeble attempt to consult Maori.

"This does nothing but give Maori a very good reason to not trust the government," he said.

The proposed sanctuary covers 620,000 square kilometres about 1000km north-east of New Zealand.

There is a sea trench about 10km deep - the second deepest in the world.

Environment Minister Nick Smith says it's home to six million seabirds of 39 species, over 150 species of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins and three species of endangered turtles.

The bill that creates the sanctuary passed its first reading unanimously in February and has been sent to a select committee for public submissions.

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