11 Aug 2011

Iwi should be told about forestry sales - Maori Party

9:02 pm on 11 August 2011

The Maori Party says rules at the Overseas Investment Office need to change so iwi are told about all forestry blocks that come up for sale.

MP Rahui Katene has made the call after the OIO gave approval for five forestry sites in Te Tai Rawhiti or the East Coast to be sold from one foreign owner to another overseas buyer.

The sites are changing hands from the Trust Company of Australia to Malaysia's Tiong Family for $95 million.

Four of the blocks - the Waiau, West Ho, Moonlight and Tolaga Forests are in the wider Gisborne area. The other, Merriwa Forest, is at Rissington in Hawke's Bay.

But the Government says it is not the Crown's role to protect or enhance tribes' commercial interests above how it would protect the commercial interest of anyone else in New Zealand.

Radio New Zealand understands the forestry blocks were up for sale for three years, and industry sources say anyone interested in buying the land would have known this.

But Ms Katene is not satisfied with the Government's response, saying the Crown is forgetting that it has a Treaty relationship with iwi that is over and above any association they have with any commercial entity.

Ms Katene says it is not about settling Treaty of Waitangi grievances - it is about acting in good faith as Treaty partners.

The MP plans to sit down with the Government to work on changing the regulations covering the sale of forestry blocks.