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Clark shoots down MPs' seabed proposal

2 November 2004

A John Tamihere-led attempt to make the foreshore and seabed proposals more acceptable to Maori appears to have failed, with Prime Minister Helen Clark saying the Government is committed to Crown ownership.

Mr Tamihere and Labour's other Maori MPs had been arguing that the Crown should assume trusteeship rather than ownership of parts of the foreshore and seabed.

The proposal, first mooted by Auckland University emeritus professor of law Jock Brookfield, would have resulted in the Crown holding particular areas on behalf of Maori.

Its backers had hoped it would dilute anger over what Maori view as a confiscation. It is understood they gained some support for the idea from Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen and Attorney-General Margaret Wilson while the prime minister was in India.

But Miss Clark indicated yesterday that trusteeship would not be part of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.

Questioned at her post-Cabinet press conference about the negotiations between the Maori MPs and Dr Cullen, she said she was committed to ensuring the foreshore and seabed were "very clearly seen as public space".

"At this point and I expect at the point down the track Crown ownership will be in the bill."

Asked if trusteeship could exist alongside Crown ownership, she said: "I think the answer I have just given you negates that."

The bill is due to be reported back to Parliament from the Fisheries and Other Sea-Related Legislation on Friday, but with the committee deadlocked over proposed amendments, it will return unchanged after more than 4000 submissions.

That will give the Maori MPs, expected to meet Dr Cullen today, more time to negotiate with their Labour colleagues. The outcome of those negotiations may not be known tilltill amendments are introduced during the bill's committee stages.

The debate on them is expected to begin before Parliament adjourns for one week on November 18. The bill will then be rammed through its final stages under urgency next month.

Nick Venter
The Domion Post

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