Peters rejects UN report criticising
19 August 2007
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has dismissed a United Nations report criticising the Foreshore and Seabed Act, saying it is erroneous, legally wrong and meddlesome.
Mr Peters says the document's authors may be experts in their fields, but not on the issues in the report.
It is the second time a UN organisation has faulted New Zealand on this law. The latest criticism is contained in a five-yearly report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The committee is also concerned that the Treaty of Waitangi is not formally part of New Zealand law, and that a bill is before a parliamentary select committee to remove statutory references to the principles of the Treaty. It wants the Waitangi Tribunal to be given legally binding powers.
The committee calls for dialogue between the Government and Maori to seek ways of mitigating what it calls the Foreshore and Seabed Act's discriminatory effects. It says this should include legislative amendment where necessary.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen says the report puts the Government on notice that it must continue to listen to people over foreshore and seabed claims.
He says the tone of the report is less harsh than a previous one released by the UN, but does not take into account the way in which the Government engages with iwi. Dr Cullen says he has always believed that the Act provides a framework whereby justice can be done for all.
However, the Maori Party says the report is a damning and depressing read. It says it is time for the Government to take note, after being told off twice in two years by the UN.
Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres has welcomed calls for renewed dialogue over the law, saying he addressed the UN committee during its hearings and approves of its conclusions.
The committee is made up of members from Egypt, Britain, Denmark, China, the United States and elsewhere.
Mr de Bres says their remoteness from New Zealand does not affect their credibility.
He says the committee was provided with full information on New Zealand from the Government and non-govermental organisations.
The Treaty Tribes Coalition says consistent international criticism by the UN of New Zealand's human rights record is embarassing.
Coalition chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana says the Government should heed the report's recommendations and the Treaty should legally become the constitution.