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Horomia gives nod to seabed plan

31 March 2004

Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia has confirmed his support for contentious foreshore and seabed legislation after acknowledging that two of his colleagues remain opposed.

Associate Maori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia and backbencher Nanaia Mahuta are understood to have been given an extension of time to decide their positions on the legislation, key details of which were presented to the Labour, NZ First and United Future caucuses yesterday.

But Mr Horomia made it clear he would support the legislation and indicated that the rest of the Labour caucus were on side.

"Certainly there is real support for it," he said. "You know as well as I do that there have been tensions but we are very clear on the benefit it can do for Maori."

Mrs Turia refused to comment after yesterday's caucus meeting. Mrs Mahuta could not be contacted. Both have been under pressure from their constituents to oppose the bill but Prime Minister Helen Clark has said Mrs Turia will lose her ministerial portfolios if she crosses the floor.

Mr Horomia said Cabinet had signed off the "over-arching framework" of the legislation but there were still details to be worked through. It is understood the Government hopes to draft the legislation in time to introduce it before Easter. Support from United Future is critical for the bill, which is expected to place the foreshore and seabed in Crown ownership. Its intention is to preserve access to the foreshore and seabed for all New Zealanders after a Court of Appeal ruling opened the door to Maori claiming private ownership.

A spokesman for United Future said there was nothing in the legislation so far for the party to alter its stance of provisional support. NZ First MPs discussed the package yesterday and are understood to have been pleased by progress.

Tracy Watkins,
The Dominion Post
© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2004

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