Protests over Māori land law review

6:20 am on 10 February 2016

Protesters hope demonstrating in the home town of the minister spearheading changes to Māori land laws will send him a clear message to stop the process.

Leader of the Maori Party, Te Ururoa Flavell.

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell is pushing on with a fourth round of hui on proposed changes to the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act (1993), despite a draft Waitangi Tribunal report saying the process is flawed.

Marise Lant, who lodged the claim that prompted the tribunal inquiry, said she would be among those protesting at a hui this afternoon in Rotorua.

"Why is the government continuing to consult, with the clear understanding that there has been a release by the tribunal [to] highlight several issues around its consultation with Māoridom?"

She said the government needed to stop its current process and start a new one that ensured Māori were engaged in consultation within a Māori forum.

"For the Crown to continue to ignore such findings is totally irresponsible," she said.

Dispute over timeframe

The first in the latest round of 20 hui on the proposed law changes was held in Auckland yesterday.

Stephen Potter of Ngāti Pu in Whangamata said the majority of the nearly 100 people that gathered for the two-hour hui supported a motion to stop this round of meetings.

"This hui has told the Crown to put the handbrake on, no more of this nonsense, go back and look at the Waitangi Tribunal report."

He said it was clear at the meeting that the Crown was cherry-picking which aspects of the report it wanted to focus on.

It took 20 years to develop laws governing Māori land but Mr Flavell was confident three years was enough time to change them.

"I acknowledge the status of the tribunal, but it has been three years, it has been over 100 hui, there is 20 hui happening right now," he said.

"We have put out an exposure draft - and never in my experience has that happened - to try and get people over the line.

"We have attempted as best we can to do that consultation and I take that seriously."

But Ms Lant said the hui, the number of changes to the act, and the time between the release of information and reports had been shambolic.

"Māori have not had enough time within each timeframe to absorb or digest that information and it is no different to what they are doing now."

Mr Flavell said he would wait for the tribunal's official report, due out next month, before deciding whether he would delay the introduction of the legislation to Parliament.

Meka Whaitiri and Labour Party leader David Shearer (left).

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri Photo: RNZ

The MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Labour's Meka Whaitiri, said she was baffled by the minister's comments.

"Clearly the tribunal says the consultation has been poor to date, yet he is going ahead with the round of consultation.

"The minister had plenty of time to proceed with the current consultation or wait, and he has chosen to go ahead."

She has been circulating a petition calling on Mr Flavell not to introduce the bill to Parliament, which she said had so far gained 1500 signatures.

Another protest was being planned for the hui in Gisborne on Friday.

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