Ngai Tahu concern shared by other
14 May 2004
Ngai Tahu's dismay at the handling of the foreshore and seabed issue was the kind of concern shared by many indigenous peoples, iwi deputy kaiwhakahaere Edward Ellison said yesterday from the United Nations in New York.
The Dunedin man stood in one of the UN's great halls yesterday, in front of 600 delegates from around the world, to put his concerns about the way Maori were being treated by the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.
The occasion was the third session of the UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
"The issue is that we strongly see ourselves as an indigenous community in New Zealand. We feel that's not being recognised or being given an appropriate level of respect," Mr Ellison said when contacted by the Otago Daily Times.
The Bill was making its way through Parliament despite widespread opposition.
Previous UN resolutions had backed the forum as a safe place for indigenous peoples to bring issues without that being questioned at home, he said.
UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan had repeated that message in his opening remarks.
Other speakers had also confirmed Ngai Tahu had taken the issue to the right place, drawing links between indigenous peoples' ability to maintain their identity and their relationship with the environment.
At yesterday's forum on culture, Mr Ellison asked the forum to call on New Zealand to abandon the Bill.
"We are being stripped of our status as indigenous peoples, and are facing an immediate and, to us, unparalleled threat to the retention of our culture and cultural identity," he said during a five-minute presentation.
Ngai Tahu did not expect the UN to weigh in on the foreshore and seabed issue but by taking it to New York it became part of the dialogue there on the concerns of indigenous peoples.
He will speak at two more sessions before returning to New Zealand next week.