ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today supported the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission against critics of its
involvement opposing a Privy Council Appeal over distribution of Maori fishing assets.
"Te Ohu Kai Moana is defending all of us in the Privy Council appeal by urban Maori. Critics who say the Commission
should watch from the sidelines have no idea of the issues. The Commission has to act because the Government is standing
by, letting injustice fester.
"The fault lies in the failure of 15 years of government to define Treaty rights. Instead the Courts have been asked to
apply intellectually empty slogans like "the principles of the Treaty". They have responded with equally vacuous and
unfounded notions such as "the Treaty Partnership". A responsible Minister of Justice would have ratified in law the
excellent work of the Commission, and made this litigation in London unnecessary.
"This is not just a Maori v Maori squabble. If the Commission simply pretended indifference to the outcome it would be
derelict. If the appeal succeeds, property rights are stolen from all of us, Pakeha as well as Maori. Urban Maori claims
challenge the heart of the Treaty as a guarantee of property rights to all New Zealanders.
"The Treaty claims process works as a settlement for all New Zealanders when it compensates for wrongly seized property.
It says that the Government is subject to the law, the heart element of the rule of law. It upholds the one law for all
that is promised in Article 3 of the Treaty, and the traditional property rights assured by Article 2.
"If compensation for misappropriation is diverted from the descendants of those who lost the property, the settlements
cannot be durable. The property was lost by identified iwi and hapu. If their compensation is siphoned off to anyone in
the city who claims to have some Maori ancestry, those hapu and iwi will have legitimate new grounds for grievance. Some
of the benefit may even go to descendants of iwi and hapu which helped the Crown.
"Paying treaty claim money on a pan-Maori basis is just another form of welfare entitlement determined by claimed race.
Whatever the decision in London, the government will have to ensure that iwi and hapu get their entitlements.