15 Sep 2016

Māori Party puts government on notice over Kermadec row

1:54 pm on 15 September 2016

The Māori Party is not ruling out walking away from its confidence and supply agreement with National over the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

A kingfish swims near the Kermadec Islands, surrounded by other fish.

A kingfish swims near the Kermadec Islands, surrounded by other fish. Photo: Malcolm Francis / NIWA

Te Ohu Kaimoana, which represents iwi fishing interests, is taking court action over the government's plans for the sanctuary, accusing it of reneging on the 1992 Treaty of Waitangi fisheries settlement.

The Māori Party and the government have agreed to get back around the table to try to find a solution.

Te Ohu Kaimoana yesterday asked the Māori Party to walk away from its deal with National over the Kermadec issue, comparing the situation with the foreshore and seabed controversy.

Prime Minister John Key said that was just not going to happen and the issue was not as serious as the foreshore and seabed.

"Well it's never going to get to that because we are going to find a way through it, and no, it wouldn't be because in 1987 we always preserved the right for oceans' sanctuaries."

Mr Key said the government had the numbers to pass the bill, but it wanted to smooth the waters with the Māori Party.

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said he was hopeful there would be a way through, but his party was reserving the right to walk away.

"We'll assess that situation when it gets to that, and that we're pretty serious about, obviously the breakdown in negotiations is something that is pretty serious.

"Right here, and right now, we have the opportunity given by the Prime Minister to get back to the table and continue to discussions in good faith, and we intend to honour that."

Co-leader Marama Fox said other countries had found solutions to these types of issues.

"There are solutions around the world that give examples where indigenous groups have fishing rights inside sanctuary areas, where it is recognised as no-take.

"We're suggesting there are solutions that can be put on the table, we're happy to explore those with the Prime Minister and the Government on behalf of Ohu Kaimoana, but we also want to bring the parties to the table."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said Te Ohu Kaimoana also asked his party pull its support for legislation, but he said that was not going to happen.

"We have always supported the Kermadec Sanctuary, we had a members bill on it back in 2013, but we are very critical of the government's lack of consultation and the way they have treated iwi through the course of this process, and we think that is the government's problem to fix."

The legislation had been through a select committee and was now due for its second reading.

The government was not putting any time frame on how long the bill would be delayed for, saying it would wait until a solution was found.

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