WELLINGTON (AFP) — The New Zealand government said Friday it voted against the UN declaration on indigenous rights because it disadvantages non-indigenous people and conflicts with the country's laws.
New Zealand, along with Australia, Canada and the United States, voted against the declaration on the rights of native people, which was approved by the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
Parekura Horomia, the New Zealand minister responsible for policy on the native Maori people, said his government was committed to protecting the rights of indigenous people.
But Horomia, himself a Maori, said the UN declaration on human, land and resource rights of indigenous people was incompatible with New Zealand law.
"These articles imply different classes of citizenship where indigenous people have a right of veto that other groups or individuals do not have," Horomia said.
The UN declaration adopted was in effect a wish list which failed to bind states to any of its provisions, he added. "This means it is toothless."
However, Hone Harawira, a legislator with the Maori Party, earlier said the decision to vote against the declaration would make the world wonder why New Zealand was against rights for its native people.
"Today is the day when New Zealand's great myth of racial harmony will be cruelly exposed for all the world to see," Harawira said Thursday.
New Zealand's human rights commissioner Rosslyn Noonan and race relations commissioner Joris de Bres said it was a shame the government could not support the declaration "over a few outstanding issues."
"In extended negotiations leading up to the adoption of the declaration, the government has supported the vast majority of the text," they said.
The Polynesian Maori make up about 15 percent of New Zealand's population of 4.1 million people.
Although they have experienced a cultural renaissance in the last 20 years, they still have poorer health, income and education, and higher rates of imprisonment than New Zealanders of European descent.
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