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A United Nations indigenous human rights expert says he's seen some initial positives during an official visit to New Zealand, but will take a few months to comprehensively report on developments since his predecessor visited in 2005.
UN special rapporteur on indigenous human rights James Anaya is here for the week to review issues reported by his predecessor, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, and noted today the pending repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act and progression on Treaty of Waitangi settlements.
Prof Stavenhagen visited New Zealand in November 2005 to assess indigenous issues and investigate whether the Foreshore and Seabed Act breached Maori rights.
He recommended the Act be repealed and a constitutional review be undertaken to recognise Maori rights of self-determination based on the Treaty of Waitangi and international law.
Prof Anaya today noted the fact the Maori Party was now a government partner.
"On the face of it that's a positive development," he told NZPA. "It brings its own set of issues perhaps. I'm trying to be open to various points of view on that, but it seems to be a very positive thing and you don't see that very commonly in other countries."
In terms of socio-economic problems for Maori, one of the initial statistics that stood out was that the high proportion of Maori in prison had not changed since 2005. It was also a common pattern for indigenous people in Australia, the United States, Canada and other countries. While analysis could be compiled, there were no quick fixes, he said.
Prof Anaya said his report take a few months to complete, but he expected New Zealand was advanced in terms of indigenous human rights compared with many other countries.
"But even the most advanced countries in terms of human rights need to continue to make decisive steps towards improvement, and that applies to every country."
Prof Anaya will make some preliminary comments on Friday.
Maori Affairs Minister and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples invited Prof Anaya to New Zealand and said he appeared to be well in tune with global indigenous rights issues.
"He has met with a number of officials and is beginning to meet with iwi and seems to have a pretty balanced view," Dr Sharples said. "At the end of the day he will say how he sees things in New Zealand since Stavenhagen's report...I'm really hopeful it will add to New Zealand's direction".