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NZ Bishops urge a return to square one on seabed bill

New Zealand's Catholic and Anglican bishops have united in calling on the Government to enter an "honest" dialogue with Maori over the seabed and foreshore legislation.

The NZ Herald reports that in a joint statement, the bishops repeated urgings that the proposed law not be passed because of the "overwhelming" opposition of Maori.

The special select committee considered the Foreshore and Seabed Bill is due to report to Parliament by the end of next week.

The new law prevents Maori claiming freehold title over the seabed and foreshore, as a Court of Appeal ruling last year said they were entitled to do.

Labour currently has the support of New Zealand First, the "third force" in New Zealand politics.

The statement by the bishops follows Maori Anglican bishops suggesting this year that the legislation threatens racial peace in New Zealand.

Churches were among the thousands of individuals and groups who made submissions to the select committee about the law, and the bishops said yesterday that there was a "remarkable unity of concern" among churches.

The Government and other political parties should carefully consider the principles at stake, they said.

"The Crown is required by the Treaty of Waitangi to act in good faith towards Maori, which must mean honest dialogue with Maori when their rights to property are at stake."

The churches are calling for fixed positions on the issue to be put aside in the belief that "a mutually agreed solution can be negotiated".

For that to happen, the bishops said, there would need to be a willingness to enter a longer and more open consultation with Maori.

Bishops urge a return to square one on seabed bill (New Zealand Herald 26/10/04)

Foreshore and Seabed Bill
Progressives rethink support for seabed bill (New Zealand Herald 25/10/04)
A submission on 'Government Proposals for Consultation: The Foreshore and Seabed of New Zealand' from the Justice Peace and Development Commission (2/10/03)
Foreshore and seabed information
Bishop Peter Cullinane: Let us be fair and informed (The Catholic Church in New Zealand)

26 Oct 2004