19 May 2010

Behind-scenes concern over UN declaration revealed

5:40 pm on 19 May 2010

Official papers reveal the Government was worried that affirming the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could have legal implications in this country.

The Government was advised when making its statement on the declaration that it be quite clear about the parts that didn't apply to New Zealand.

The papers say that the declaration, while not legally binding, could have implications at both an international and domestic level.

They argue that there was a risk the declaration could come to be regarded as customary international law and that a tribunal or court in this country could be swayed by that argument.

The papers also reveal that a lot of work went into the statement delivered to the UN by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples in New York, in order to make it clear that the declaration didn't cut across New Zealand law or the Treaty of Waitangi.