14 March 2005

UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination - summary

The parts of the report relating to New Zealand:
New Zealand Foreshore and Seabed Concerning New Zealand, the Committee expressed its appreciation at having had the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue with the State party. Bearing in mind the complexity of the issues involved, the New Zealand Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 appeared to the Committee, on balance, to contain discriminatory aspects against the Maori, in particular in its extinguishment of the possibility of establishing Maori customary title over the foreshore and seabed and its failure to provide a guaranteed right of redress, notwithstanding the State party’s obligations under articles 5 and 6 of the Convention. ... Decision on Situation in New Zealand In a decision on New Zealand, the Committee noted its review of the compatibility of the New Zealand Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 with the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the light of information received both from the Government of New Zealand and a number of Maori non-governmental organizations and taking into account its General Recommendation No. XXIII on indigenous peoples. The Committee expressed its appreciation at having had the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue with the State party and the State party’s written and oral responses to its requests for information related to the legislation, including those submitted on 17 February and 9 March 2005. Bearing in mind the complexity of the issues involved, the legislation appeared to the Committee, on balance, to contain discriminatory aspects against the Maori, in particular in its extinguishment of the possibility of establishing Maori customary title over the foreshore and seabed and its failure to provide a guaranteed right of redress, notwithstanding the State party’s obligations under articles 5 and 6 of the Convention.

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Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"


This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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