National | Customary Rights

Plant Variation Rights Bill described as hitting sweet spot to meet Treaty obligations

The Plant Variation Rights Bill had its first reading in the House last night and is being described by Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark as hitting a sweet spot for the government in its quest to meet its responsibilities to the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Plant Variation Rights Bill will see more honest and robust representation of Māori in the plant breeding industry in New Zealand.

Māori intellectual property expert Karaitiana Taiuru has taken part in the consultation phase leading to these changes. He notes the complexities and contribution the WAI262 claim has had on the bill.

"The PVR bill is about taking one plant and mixing it with another plant so you create a new plant. The significance for Māori is using any of our tāonga species, whether it's a totara or flax. So the current legislation doesn't recognise Te Tiriti or Mātauranga Māori," he says.

"Under the proposed act, if a scientist took a taonga species from your marae, under these proposed amendments, your marae has to be consulted. Up until now, there was no protection whatsoever."

Minister David Clark is confident the amendments will see the government meets its Treaty obligations.

"This relationship is key to this regime. This is a fantastic regime that gets the best of both worlds. Make sure we're respecting individual indigenous rights that are there but also promoting our trade interest offshore."

The plant breeding industry, he says, is thriving.

Karaitiana says the inclusion of Māori at the decision-making table has been a long time coming.

"Internationally we have scientists come into the country to Aotearoa and take away plants with no repercussions or Te Tiriti obligations.

"Where there's a kaitiaki relationship, folks will approach iwi or hapū, those who have the relationship and work together as to how to ensure that kaitiaki relationships are retained."