8 Feb 2010

PM acknowledges limitation of iwi leaders' group

9:45 pm on 8 February 2010

The Prime Minister has acknowledged that the iwi leaders' group with which the Government is negotiating over the foreshore and seabed issue does not represent all Maori.

But John Key says the Iwi Leaders' Forum represents many Maori, whose economic base is growing dramatically.

Responding to criticism by Te Arawa activist Annette Sykes, who says the Government has failed to consult with a wide enough cross-section of Maoridom, Mr Key says that, as with Pakeha, it's difficult to find anyone who can speak for all Maori, and the Government is working to gain as much support as possible.

He says he accepts concerns that the forum is more representative of corporate Maori but nonetheless finds his discussions with it very useful as the Government continues its negotiations.

Maori Party 'acting as doorman' to group

Ms Sykes says the forum seems to be the only group the National Party is seeking opinion from, and moreover, she told Nine to Noon, "The Maori Party is acting as doorman to allow this group only to have this right of access. That is not tikanga."

She says the Maori Party has a mandate to make sure all Maori are properly represented in negotiations.

Ngapuhi chair Sonny Tau says the forum represents all 57 iwi and is the best group to represent Maori in negotations. Every member is an elected member of their iwi, he says.

Iwi leaders 'happy with progress'

Members of the forum say they received an assurance at a meeting with Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson at Waitangi that the Foreshore and Seabed Act will be repealed as soon as an alternative is ready.

Mr Tau says the leaders were happy with the progress being made to replace the legislation.

"Section 13 will be removed - that's the ownership of the Crown - and the new foreshore and seabed legislation will contain a clause that gives the mana of the iwi status," he told Waatea News.

"In terms of its management, the Crown is happy to share that management."

Mr Tau says Maori will be able to go back to court to pursue their foreshore claims.

PM confident act will be repealed this year

After meeting iwi leaders at Waitangi himself, Mr Key said that most of them support the Government's proposal for resolving the issue.

"The vast bulk of iwi leaders and iwi representatives support the elegant solution," he said, "and there are one or two that are challenged by it.

"They need to make up their mind whether they want to support it or not."

An option open to the Government, if agreement couldn't be reached, was simply to leave the contentious legislation in place, but Mr Key said he remained confident that the act would be repealed this year.

Mr Key will not disclose details of the proposal but says it does guarantee public access to the foreshore and seabed.

Labour's position on proposal outlined

Labour Party leader Phil Goff says that only a few people know what the Government is proposing, as there has been no widespread consultation.

But if consensus among all the groups can be achieved, he says, with respect for customary rights and guaranteed access for the public without payment, then Labour will reaffirm it.

"In practice, that won't be much different from what's happening at the moment," Mr Goff adds.