Wai 262 report presented at marae ceremony

The Waitangi Tribunal is asking almost every government department to make wide-ranging changes to give Maori a bigger role in decision-making.

In a report on the Wai 262 claim - also known as the flora and fauna claim - the tribunal recommends the reform of laws, policies and practices that affect Maori culture, health and identity.

First lodged by six iwi 21 years ago, Wai 262 asserts that the Crown failed to adequately protect Maori interests in relation to cultural knowledge and practices, as well as in their relationships with indigenous flora and fauna.

The report, entitled Ko Aotearoa Tenei - This is New Zealand, is being released at a special hui at Roma marae in Ahipara, near Kaitaia, attended by Crown representatives and members of the tribunal. Its recommendations are non-binding.

Report recommendations

The Waitangi Tribunal wants the Department of Conservation (DoC) to work to give Maori an equal voice in decisions made on pest control, heritage preservation and commercial operations.

Of all the government agencies, it days, DoC has one of the strongest legal requirements to comply with the Treaty, and yet it has failed to do so.

The tribunal is recommending a national council and conservancy- based smaller boards be set up to work alongside the Conservation Authority.

The report also seeks expansion within Te Taura Whiri, the Maori Language Commission, so that it can take a lead role in reviving the language.

The Ministry of Health and DoC are being asked to recognise traditional Maori healing, or rongoa, as a way of helping to address the Maori health crisis.

Te Puni Kokiri and the Department of Culture and Heritage are being asked to lead the way in preserving Maori knowledge, or matauranga Maori, by setting up partnerships with iwi across the arts, education and sciences.

The tribunal also seeks a new commission to protect Maori cultural works against offensive and unauthorised use; and it wants the Crown to significantly increase Maori input into international treaties.

It also says the Crown's support for te reo should include policies, resources and the provision of public services in te reo, as well as English.

Large crowd attends ceremony

The report is seen by some Maori as the most important Treaty development in a generation and a crowd of about 300 turned up at Roma Marae for the occasion.

Twenty-one years on, only one of the original claimants is still alive to receive the report on Saturday.

Ninety-year-old Sana Murray sat with the descendants of the other claimants, whose photos were displayed on a table beside them.

The presiding officer of the Waitangi Tribunal, Jo Williams, led members on to the marae while Keita Walker - a Tribunal member and kuia of Ngati Porou - carried two woven kete containing the three-volume report.

Government to consider non-binding findings

The recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal report on WAI 262 are non-binding.

The Government says it will give careful consideration to them and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson says the findings will give the Government much food for thought.

He says there are public and private interests to consider, when the Government responds, as well as other factors like the fiscal situation.

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