9 Jun 2010

PM 'quietly confident' on foreshore proposal

7:13 pm on 9 June 2010

The Prime Minister is quietly confident that National's proposal to resolve the foreshore and seabed debate will be accepted by the Maori Party.

With negotiations over the proposal nearing an end, John Key says the chances of getting an agreement are more than 50-50, despite opposition from some iwi leaders.

Mr Key has said that if the Maori Party does not support the proposal to deem the foreshore and seabed public domain, then the existing law will stay.

The New Zealand Maori Council's deputy chairman, Jim Nichols, says the Maori Party has no choice but to stand firm. The issue is why it entered Parliament in the first place, he says.

The chairman of the influential Iwi Leaders Group, Mark Solomon, rejects the proposal but another iwi leader, Api Mahuika from Ngati Porou, says the iwi leaders met last Friday and generally agreed that it offers better opportunities for Maori than the existing legislation.

[Mr Solomon says it seems incongruous that Maori are being denied any right to title while landowners with existing rights get to keep theirs. He also says any agreement should be worked out with affected iwi and hapu, not with the Maori Party.

He says iwi want the foreshore and seabed placed under the joint guardianship of the Treaty partners.

Scholar endorses joint ownership

A leading constitutional scholar has endorsed a proposal for joint ownership of the foreshore and seabed put up by the Iwi Leaders Group.

Alex Frame, who headed the Treaty of Waitangi Policy Unit, the predecessor of the Office of Treaty Settlements, says the idea is similar to the notion of a Treaty title, which he put in a submission to the select committee hearing the original Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Dr Frame told Waatea News it's possible to vest the foreshore and seabed in the Treaty of Waitangi in a way that locks in all three articles.

He says a Treaty council consisting of members appointed by the Crown and Maori could oversee the law and sort out any local disputes.