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Seabed issue prompts march

Published: 6:18PM Monday July 28, 2003

Anger over Maori claims on the seabed and foreshore has brought hundreds of people onto the streets of Nelson.

The march was organised by the government's political ally United Future party which believes the issue could divide the country.

Involved were non-Maori, mostly older New Zealanders who say they fear becoming second class citizens if claims to the foreshore are successful.

Protester Joy Shirley says New Zealand is for everybody.

"Why don't we join together and make a marvellous country?"

United Future organised this rally vying with political rivals to stamp their brand on the seabed issue.

"If we create rights for some New Zealanders and not others, then we start down a very sure and slippery slope to anarchy," says leader Peter Dunne.

But the involvement of the government's political ally in organising the march concerns the Marlborough tribes, whose battle to have their seabed claim heard in court brought the issue to a head.

"What are they saying by getting out on the streets is that we should thumb our nose at law and order. It's a bit scary what's going on," says Te Tau Ihu spokesperson John Mitchell.

The crowd of over 300 was met by a sole protester.

The National party collected several hundred signatures to add to the $0,000 they claim they have collected online for their petition against coastline claims.

National wants a new law to prevent the Maori Land Court hearing claims to the foreshore and seabed.

National MP Nick Smith says that anyone who wants to divide up the shoreline for one exclusive group of citizenship must be stopped.

Claimants say it is the barriers to getting their claim heard that have been discriminatory.

"If we're going to be talking words like apartheid or discrimination or favoured treatment, then you have to look at this thing in totality of what has been going on over the last 15, 20 and 30 years," says Mitchell.

A cabinet committee meets with Labour's Maori caucus again this week in a bid to reach a settlement to this contentious issue.

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