Ngai Tahu wins Pacific support
14 May 2004
Ngai Tahu's appeal to the United Nations over the foreshore and seabed issue has received "considerable attention", says the iwi's chief executive, Tahu Potiki.
Potiki said the Pacific region was backing the iwi's claims after a Ngai Tahu delegation told the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that the Government had shown "flagrant disregard" for indigenous people's rights.
Ngai Tahu made the presentations yesterday morning to about 700 representatives at the forum, a UN-mandated body which advises the Economic and Social Council on indigenous issues. The forum has no authority over a New Zealand government.
With the support of the Treaty Tribes Coalition, Ngai Tahu told the forum the Government had revealed its "contempt" for human rights and the principles of equality and non-discrimination with its proposed Foreshore and Seabed Bill.
Ngai Tahu chief executive Tahu Potiki said the iwi had taken the unusual step as a last-ditch attempt to secure its right to have the courts hear claims to the foreshore and seabed.
Potiki said the Pacific caucus on the forum which included representatives of about 20 Pacific nations had agreed to back the iwi's submissions. The caucus would include Ngai Tahu's interventions, or claims, during its allotted presentation time, he said.
The forum's Pacific Basin region representative, lawyer Mililani Trask, had also asked for a detailed report on the issues surrounding the foreshore and seabed debate.
Potiki said while he did not think the Government would budge on the issue, the support from other nations lent weight to Ngai Tahu's arguments. "I think every little bit (of attention) is going to help, but at the moment the Government is pretty resolute. The bottom line is the Government is very adamant that the public support issue is more important to them than human rights."
However, Potiki took some heart from Attorney General Margaret Wilson's recent comments regarding the foreshore and seabed bill. Wilson said it was a "prima facie breach" (a case to answer) because Maori who currently hold customary title, even if not yet recognised in a court, will be deprived of that title in "absence of a guaranteed right of redress".
However, she said in her opinion the bill was consistent with the Bill of Rights.