10 Feb 2011

Govt to address fears of 'shoddy' customary title deals

3:57 pm on 10 February 2011

The Government is moving to ease concern that legislation to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act will lead to shoddy backroom deals with iwi for customary title.

The Maori Affairs Select Committee has recommended that Parliament pass the controversial Marine and Coastal Area Bill unchanged.

The bill would enable iwi to gain customary title through direct negotiation with the Crown, which would then be effected through Orders in Council signed off by Cabinet without debate by Parliament.

However, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson says he will amend the bill when it returns to Parliament to ensure that agreements have to be legislated by the House.

He says people's concerns were that some minister late in the election year might try to whip through a few deals for political reasons rather than principled ones.

ACT leader Rodney Hide says even though titles will have to go through Parliament, bad deals will still be made.

Mr Hide told Morning Report it should be the common law courts that make the decisions about who owns the foreshore, not politicians.

Decision to rush legislation made in 2010 - Turia

The Maori Party says the decision to rush through Parliament legislation to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act was made last year.

Co-leader Tariana Turia says the party is opposed to the threshold tests for customary title that the bill introduces.

However, she says its supporters are satisfied that the Maori Party has achieved the best outcome it can.

Mrs Turia rejects claims the legislation is being rushed because of the Maori Party's internal row with suspended MP Hone Harawira.