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April 26, 2010 | by  | in News |
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New Zealand adopts Indigenous Rights declaration

The New Zealand Government has signed up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, a non-binding declaration that recognises the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination, among other rights.

The signing of the declaration in New York last week signals a U-turn by the current government, after the Labour Government refused to adopt the declaration in 2007.

The Labour Government, at the time of the declaration’s adoption, said that it was at odds with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal framework, and the Treaty of Waitangi.

The declaration recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, to maintain their own languages and cultures, and to protect their natural heritage and manage their own affairs.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples told the UN that there were no caveats to New Zealand’s support of the declaration.

Prime Minister John Key has however played down the significance of the signing of the declaration, saying it will have no practical effect.

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira told Radio New Zealand that the declaration would be used by Maori to bolster claims before the Waitangi Tribunal and in courts.

Act party leader Rodney Hide says Act is “shocked and appalled” by the government’s decision to support the declaration.

In parliament Hide called Key “naïve in the extreme” regarding his comments that the declaration would have no practical effect in New Zealand.

Hide was also critical of National’s decision because he saw it as a breach of the “no surprises” policy.

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