State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 - New Zealand
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||28 June 2012|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 - New Zealand, 28 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fedb3f5b.html [accessed 1 December 2015]|
New Zealand's general election, held in November 2011, saw the incumbent Prime Minister, John Key of the National Party, retain his position. The Maori Party won three seats, down two from the previous election, and has formed a coalition government with the National Party.
The Maori enjoy a relatively strong position in society compared to other indigenous peoples around the world, thanks to the Treaty of Waitangi. New Zealand also has a very sizeable minority population of Pacific Islanders, and an Asian minority community. Both Maori and minority groups are often, however, in situations of economic and social disadvantage. A recent study on infectious diseases has illustrated that Maori and Pacific Islanders suffer from higher rates of disease and are twice as likely to be hospitalized as those New Zealanders of European heritage. Asians are the minority group most often perceived to be discriminated against.
Maori have long been seeking more secure protection of their treaty rights through constitutional provisions. The government recently announced that it is planning to undertake a constitutional review process, which will include a review of Maori representation, the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and other constitutional issues.
Regarding mining, New Zealand has a wealth of as yet untapped natural resources. The current government has put economic growth at the top of its agenda and is keen to emulate Australia's mining success. One proposal tabled was to open mines in national parks and other protected lands. The strength of the public backlash led to the proposal being abandoned in 2010; however, the government is now working with community leaders on the possibilities of mining on Maori-owned land.
The controversial Marine and Coastal Area Bill, which replaces the much-debated Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, was passed in 2011 in parliament. The original act vested the ownership of the public foreshore and seabed in the government, thereby extinguishing any Maori customary title over that area, while private title over the foreshore and seabed remained unaffected. The act was strongly criticized as being highly discriminatory against the Maori community, by both Maori themselves and international actors, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The new bill purportedly restores the customary interests extinguished by the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Yet in order to obtain customary marine title under the new law, a Maori group must prove that it has used and occupied the area claimed according to custom (tikanga) without substantial interruption from 1840 to the present day, and to the exclusion of others, which is an extremely high threshold.