Government 'must act on race report'
22 August 2007
The Government can no longer ignore Maori concern over the Foreshore and Seabed Act after a damning United Nations report, a Ngai Tahu leader says.
A UN report on the Government's performance in implementing the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination was released on Saturday.
The report follows written and oral submissions by various interested parties in Geneva, including Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu (Tront) and the Treaty Tribes Coalition, on the 2006 report by Special Rapporteur Dr Rodolfo Stafenhagen.
Stafenhagen visited New Zealand last year and heavily criticised the Government for its race relations policies.
The report contains seven positive aspects and 22 concerns and recommendations.
It continues to criticise the Foreshore and Seabed Act and strongly urges the Government to enhance the status and recognition of the treaty.
Tront kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon said the Government could no longer ignore Maori concerns over the act and the rightful place of the Treaty of Waitangi within New Zealand society.
"Maori have stated consistently from the very start of this issue that the Government has ridden roughshod over our rights.
"The United Nations also agrees unreservedly. The next step is for the Crown to acknowledge this and take positive steps to make things right," he said.
The committee directed the Government to report back in December 2011, addressing all of the issues raised.
"This should be seen for what it is, international pressure and embarrassment for the Government to walk its talk – as a nation that trades on its reputation for racial tolerance and equality," said Solomon.
Maori Party Treaty of Waitangi spokesman Te Ururoa Flavell said the report was a depressing read.
"The bulk of the report points out our ongoing failure to entrench the treaty as a constitutional norm and the lack of progress in achieving justice," he said.
"It is to our national shame to see the recommendations from the last report repeated, because of the total failure by Government to face up to the monumental error of their actions against Maori."
Flavell said the committee made some significant recommendations that his party would be urging the Government to follow.
These included renewed talks between the Government and Maori on the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and that the Crown provide more resources to the Waitangi Tribunal and give it a legally binding authority.
A spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said the Government would consider all of the report's recommendations.
"The minister is not ashamed of the committee's conclusions around race relations in New Zealand," he said, noting that the report also welcomed the positive progress being made.
"It is usual practice for the committee to include in its written concluding observations a number of concerns and recommendations as part of constructive dialogue."
The Government would respond to the recommendations in its next report, he said.