24 Jul 2010

UN official urges rethink on Urewera land

5:57 pm on 24 July 2010

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for indigenous peoples is urging the Government to reconsider its refusal to return lands in the Urewera National Park to the Tuhoe Iwi.

James Anaya has been in the country for five days following up on a report written by his predecessor in 2008.

Mr Anaya says he has seen changes that make him optimistic about the progress being made to improve the status of Maori.

He has noted steps taken by the Government to accelerate the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, and to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

But Mr Anaya says he has also heard complaints about the settlement process similar to those heard by his predecessor.

He cited as an example the decision not to allow for the possibility of the return of lands within the Urewera National Park to Tuhoi.

Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger hopes the Government will seriously consider the UN official's statements.

Mr Kruger says he hopes the tribe can resume treaty negotiations and is expecting to reconvene talks with the Crown next month.

The chair of the Waikato-Tainui executive, Tukoroirangi Morgan, says James Anaya is an acknowledged expert in international law as it relates to indigenous peoples, and his words will carry weight outside this country.

He told Waatea News it would be a mistake for the Government to treat his report like that of his predecessor Rudolfo Stavenhagen, whose 23 recommendations were ignored.

Minister of Maori Affairs, Dr Pita Sharples, who invited Mr Anaya to New Zealand, says he has noticed encouraging developments such as the proposed repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Dr Sharples says the report is complimentary of work which has been done but also points out areas which need more dialogue.

He says Mr Anaya is expected to make a full report within several months.