Opinion: Govt can blame itself for Kermadec botch-up

School of eagle rays numbering about 20 swimming along the edge of the reef at Wolf Island.

It's unfathomable the Government thought it could get away with creating an ocean sanctuary in the Kermadec Islands without consulting Māori.

I cannot get my head around how much of a botch-up this has been.

The sanctuary is a good news story that should never have ended up in court, and in a serious spat being played out in Parliament.

An ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs is a great idea. But the way Environment Minister Nick Smith has gone about the entire process has been insulting to the Treaty of Waitangi, with a reckless disregard to the settlement process.

How was the Prime Minister allowed to announce the proposal without his government doing its due diligence?

It looks lazy, and rushed.

All Māori were giving fishing rights to New Zealand waters, including the Kermadecs, in 1992 when Parliament passed the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act.

It was the first ever Treaty settlement, and it "guarantees to the Chiefs, tribes, and individual Māori full exclusive and undisturbed possession and te tino rangatiratanga of their fisheries".

How is it possible then, for the Government to ride roughshod over that law and announce an ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs without a solution to the provisions in the settlement?

It's even more surprising this blunder was made with the involvement of Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson, who has settled more Treaty grievances than any other minister ever before, and who has a reputation as a fair negotiator.

Look at the mess the Government is now in. It is a product of its own carelessness:

It is a disaster. And it's not going away. And the Government can only blame itself.