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Pouakani Claims (What The Govt Didn’t Tell Maori)

Pouakani Claims Settlement Bill: (What The Government Didn’t Tell Maori)

Wednesday 15th Nov 2000 Richard Prebble Speech

Hon Richard Prebble Speech To The House Thursday 09 November 2000

This has been a very interesting bill. It gives legislative enforcement to a settlement that was actually reached by the National Government and Sir Douglas Graham. So it is a settlement that happened over a year ago.

It is interesting to note that the new Labour Government was going to settle these Waitangi settlements quicker has not produced any legislation itself. I think it has done only a very tiny settlement.

When the bill first came in front of the House I did not quite realise what we were being asked to agree to. But it is perhaps fortunate for the Maori claimants that I am a member of this committee, because I actually recognised some of the land.

I should say to the House that we went up to Taupo. It was an interesting session. Kaumatua and others were very pleased to have their land returned. As an aside, I say that they welcomed us all. I was the only MP they actually recognised, and I was thanked for bringing the juniors along with me, which was rather nice.

Then we got into a discussion, and who should give evidence, apart from the Maori claimants, but Stephen King. Who is Stephen King? Well, of course, we all remember him. He is the young teenager who climbed up the totara trees to stop them from being chopped down, and was eventually successful.

Quite a few of the totara trees were chopped down. How do I remember that? I actually thought that chopping down totara trees was not a good idea. As a very young junior MP, I went up there and made a speech at Minginui, I think the name of the place was. The whole press gallery came because they thought I would never survive going to tell forestry workers that I did not think chopping down native trees was a very good idea. In fact, we survived.

The Government of the day, the National Government, then stopped chopping them down. But, of course, the land that had been cleared and it looked like the First World War was planted in pine. This was way back in 1979. I think that is right; it was at about that date. So those pine trees of course are now mature and ready to be harvested.

But the issue came up again, because I am the same person who reintroduced them to the story. I was Minister for State-owned Enterprises, in charge of the Government's radiata pine forests. I put them up for commercial lease. Those who were opposed to that decision decided to make a stand about the Pureora Forest, and that particular land, and Stephen King.

They said they would oppose the sale of those radiata pines because they wanted them to be cleared and the area to be replanted in native trees. They made a big protest. I remember saying to Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who was Prime Minister: “Look, if we try to lease this piece of land we're going to have them all up in the trees again. It is election year. It will be hopeless. Let's set it aside. Anyway, there is a point in what they say. Perhaps the land should go back and be part of the national park.'' So one of the decisions I made in 1990 was to set it aside.

Blow me down, what do I then find when I come to this committee? It is that piece of land, the piece of land that the Crown cannot sell to anyone, that Sir Graham and the bureaucrats and now the Labour Government think would be a great piece of land to offer to Maori as a settlement.

This makes beads and blankets look ethical. Here we have a Maori land claim, and what does the Government do? It gives half a mountain, not the whole mountain, and then says: “Would you like this piece of land that we can't sell? Would you like to have that? Of course, it comes with Stephen King.'' He turned up and said he would protest if the Government tried to harvest it without giving a commitment for it to go back into a national park.

At lunchtime, and I know it was not strictly in the evidence, I sat down with some of the kaumatua. They said to me: “Prebs, who is this Stephen King fellow? What has it to do with him? Isn't this our land?''. I said: “Look, if you think you don't want possums in your trees, you don't want Stephen King in your trees either. The Government has to give you the trees, and Stephen King.''

But then I read the agreement more carefully. The Government is not even going to do that. The Government said to Maori: “Here's some money. Have we got an offer for you! We want you to buy these radiata pine trees from us.'' So the poor old Maori think they are getting them back. They are actually getting a chance to buy these pine trees that the Crown and I know because I was the best seller in Government, and still am I think, could not even sell.

The Government said: “We want you Maori to come and buy the pine trees that even Prebs cannot sell, and there is a formula in there for a fair market price.'' What is a fair market price for a forest that has Stephen King and his mates in it? No doubt the bureaucrats thought this was very funny. They probably think the two groups deserve each other.

The ACT party has a different view about settlements. We say that they should be fair, full, and final. How can there be a final settlement when Stephen King is put in with the trees, and when we have not reached an agreement with Stephen King and Maori as to what is to happen to that piece of land after the radiata pine has been cleared? They agreed that the officials had raised that issue but they had not reached a settlement.

This is not a fair, full, and final settlement. This is a travesty of a settlement. Someone in the House should be prepared to get up and say and I hope the chairperson will as well; I think he will that we have some grave doubts about the fairness of this settlement. We said in the report

that we have grave doubts as to whether we could charge anything for that piece of land. Certainly the value of it has to be low. I want to say to the House that I think that Maori, the environmentalists, and the Crown should have reached an all-up settlement. If the all-up settlement really is that this land is to be planted with native trees again, then it is not a settlement at all.

I therefore feel very, very uncomfortable about this bill. We cannot change it. I guess we cannot vote against it. But I say to those Maori kaumatua who are speaking to me that I think the Government is not playing straight with them. I think that this settlement is unethical.

I do not think it is fair to put together a piece of legislation and then say they can sort it out later, when we know that they are being asked to sort out something that the Crown, for over 20 years, has not been able to sort out. They should have sat around the table and reached a proper settlement so that the environmental movement, so that other New Zealanders who have an interest in this beautiful part of New Zealand, and so that Maori, know that that is what it is.

I therefore think that even making the grant for nothing, as some members of the committee think we should, still does not settle the matter. Is this land going to be incorporated back into native trees? If that is a requirement, how can Maori claim that they own it? What is the point of saying to them: “Here is a piece of land but by the way you have to do this with it.'' If one owns it one can do what one likes with it. Therefore I say that this bill does not reflect well on the Crown. I do not think it reflects well on two successive Governments.


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