Govt taken to court over Kermadec sanctuary

Govt taken to court over Kermadec sanctuary

The Government is being taken to court by the Maori Fisheries Trust over plans to create a vast ocean sanctuary around the Kermadecs.

Around 620,000 square kilometres in the north eastern corner of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone is flagged to become the reserve -- but there's a catch: the area is part of a Treaty settlement which gives Maori fishing rights.

The trust, also called Te Ohu Kaimoana, says the proposed marine sanctuary extinguishes all iwi customary commercial and non-commercial fishing rights in the area, secured under a pan-iwi, pan-Maori agreement with the Government in 1992.

Part of the deal guarantees Maori would be involved in Crown decisions regarding the management of fisheries and ecosystems, but Te Ohu Kaimoana alleges this hasn't happened with the sanctuary proposal.

Before the bill was introduced to Parliament, Prime Minister John Key said there was no Treaty breach because "fish were migratory species" and Maori could catch them elsewhere.

Mr Key also ruled out any compensation for removing the area from the settlement, saying "Parliament is sovereign" and can pass the bill regardless.

Te Ohu Kaimoana chairman Jamie Tuuta says all iwi, irrespective of whether they come from Northland or not, have fishing rights under the Fishing Management Act to the Kermadec region.

He's concerned the proposal will set a precedent for future iwi settlements, especially if the government can reclassify areas without consultation.