Maori blame Smith for Kermadec stalemate

  • 17/09/2016
Environment Minister Nick Smith
Environment Minister Nick Smith

Environment Minister Nick Smith has handled the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary poorly and would deprive Maori of future fishing rights, says the trust which has caught the Government with a Treaty of Waitangi fishhook.

The Government was this week forced to put on hold plans to establish a widely praised 620,000 square kilometre sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands, after negotiations with Te Ohu Kaimoana - which is legally challenging the sanctuary - broke down.

The trust says the sanctuary cuts across the Treaty's 1992 fisheries settlement, which transferred 10 percent of the New Zealand fishing quota to Maori.

Chief executive Dion Tuuta says Dr Smith has handled the whole process poorly with a lack of consultation.

On a matter of principle the Kermadec proposal was worse than the foreshore and seabed scrap of the early 2000s, which was about right to go to court to test ownership rights, he told The Nation on Saturday.

"This is actually taking away a property right that actually exists.

"We haven't fished there but our Treaty right also includes the right to develop into the future. So the decision about whether we fish there today, tomorrow or a hundred years from now, that's is our decision."

Dr Smith has said any fishing exemptions would undermine any sanctuary's integrity.

The Maori Party, which is a Government ally and wants to bridge the gap between the two parties, is also critical.

The Government had overridden Maori interests without any consultation - and if it could do that to the fisheries settlement it could to it to any Treaty settlement, party co-leader Marama Fox told the programme.

Maori were not getting rich off Treaty settlements, which had only returned less than 1 percent of what was taken through colonisation, she said.

With the Kermadec sanctuary they had been offered the chance to gift more rights back to the Government.

"The Government have simply not learnt through the bad example of the Labour government," Mrs Fox said.