7 Jul 2009

NZ to ratify UN indigenous declaration - Sharples

9:31 pm on 7 July 2009

Maori Affairs minister Pita Sharples says the Government will ratify the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples within weeks.

Pita Sharples told Radio New Zealand he expects to make a joint statement with Prime Minister John Key on ratifying the declaration in the next month.

The declaration says indigenous people have the right to self-determination, autonomy and the self-government of their local and internal affairs.

Mr Key is refusing to put a timeframe on the decision, but said on Tuesday he is feeling more confident that New Zealand can sign the declaration.

He says Dr Sharples is a strong proponent of New Zealand signing up and is keen to make progress.

Mr Key says the declaration is not binding and does not supersede New Zealand law, but it is important to fully understand any implications of ratification.

Dr Sharples says it is always a battle for Maori to retain their rights and the declaration promotes self-determination. He says ratifying is about the right of Maori culture to be recognised.

The previous Labour-led Government had opposed signing on legal grounds, but advice released under the Official Information Act shows there is no overriding legal impediment.

The Labour Party believes New Zealand should not sign the declaration because no government will carry out some of its provisions. Leader Phil Goff says while there is much in the non-binding declaration that the party can support, other parts go too far.

Mr Goff says no government will give any group within New Zealand the right to self-government or the power of veto over its decision-making.

He says if the National Government has no intention of following through on the declaration's goals and requirements, it should not sign it.