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Ngai Tahu condemns government actions

19 September 2003

Ngai Tahu has rejected outright the Government's proposals on the foreshore and seabed.

In a strongly-worded speech before some 300 Maori and a large Government delegation, kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon condemned the Government for failing to treat Ngai Tahu as an equal partner and for unnecessarily rushing the consultation over the foreshore and seabed.

"If it takes another seven generations Ngai Tahu will never give up on this issue," he said.

The foreshore proposals were evidence of further "unconscionable and repeated breaches" of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and threatened to "change the nature of bicultural relationships in this country forever".

Yesterday's hui, at Rapaki Marae, was the seventh of 11 planned around the country by the Government in six weeks of consultation with Maori over its foreshore and seabed proposals.

Media were allowed to sit through the tightly-controlled two-hour meeting but were not allowed to take notes or record speeches.

The key to the Government's proposal is that the foreshore and seabed will be put into "public domain" with no Crown or Maori ownership. It follows June's Appeal Court ruling that Maori could apply to the Maori Land Court for customary rights over the foreshore and seabed.

Mr Solomon said the Government's proposal appeared to be a "fait accompli".

He said the Government had never contacted Ngai Tahu directly on the issue. "I learnt about this meeting at Rapaki from the media. The treaty talks about partnership but in partnership you have got to act together."

He said the public had been led to believe that Maori would deny public access to the coastline. "We have not put forward proposals of this nature. It's not about being separatist, we're not about excluding anyone."

Despite the strong words from Mr Solomon and other leading Ngai Tahu figures, including former iwi elder Charles Crofts, the hui remained good-natured.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen told those present that it had been the best hui so far for the quality of the debate.

He stressed the Government's bottom line was that there could be no new "private exclusive rights" to the foreshore or seabed.

National Party leader Bill English - at the hui with Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee - said it had shown the gap between the expectations of iwi and mainstream New Zealand opinion. "I don't think the gap can be closed."

Published in The Press. © Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2003

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