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Ken Shirley Speech: The Death of Reasoning


Ken Shirley Speech: The Death of Reasoning

Something very weird is happening in New Zealand. Increasingly superstition, fantasy, fiction and fable are creeping into our legal frameworks displacing fact, reality and reasoning.

History teaches us that civilisations wax and wan according to their aspirational goals and values. The Moors, Babylonians, Athenians, Egyptians and Romans all had their day in the sun and all subsequently declined when they abandoned or had stripped from them the values of success.

The Renaissance and Age of Reasoning brought new values and new principles, which took Europe out of the Dark Ages replacing witchcraft, suspicion and superstition with open rational thinking.

The success of today's western societies is based on the classical liberal values and freedoms that were honed by dramatic events such as Magna Carta, the French Revolution and the US Declaration of Independence.

A secular state and tolerant society are key components of a modern, western, liberal society.

Fanatics and fundamentalists who wish to impose their secular views on society at large, often with the support of governments, are the greatest threat to freedom, peace and our liberal world.

These groups come in many forms. The Taleban of Afghanistan and Mugabe's regime of Zimbabwe are just two examples.

Regrettably in contemporary New Zealand fable and myth are creeping into our statutes and progressively impinging upon our individual freedoms and rights.

There have been several examples in recent months. Why did Contact Energy pay Ngai Tahu $1.6 million to not oppose on spiritual grounds their resource consent application to renew water rights for the Clyde Dam?

While on the one hand the Resource Management Act provides for the sustainable management of natural and physical resources it does, on the other hand, introduce metaphysical values that bestow rights and powers to impinge on property rights on the basis of spiritual belief.

To my mind these are irreconcilable conflicts created by faulty law that the Courts cannot and should not attempt to determine.

We should not be surprised that shortly after the Contact Energy payment, Ken Mair and his band in Wanganui upped the ante on Genesis who were facing the renewal of their resource consents for the Tongariro power scheme.

Parallel to this, we had Transit New Zealand delay the upgrading of State Highway 1 at Meremere due to the presence of taniwha.

Television news and metropolitan newspapers told us that these taniwha come in many forms and we were even presented with illustrations - big eyes, fish heads, scaled bodies and tails. Some of them resembled my childhood drawings of Billy Goat Gruff and the wicked troll who lived under the bridge.

In a tolerant society individuals and groups should be free to believe in pixies, elves, hobgoblins, taniwha, Father Christmas, the tooth fairy or whatever, but they should not have the right to impose these beliefs on others. A secular Government should not be complicit in that imposition through its lawmaking.

All New Zealanders can share an appreciation of our natural heritage whether a shoreline, a mountain top or a river valley. However, no individual culture should have special rights or privilege and private property rights must be recognised, respected and upheld. After all Article II of the Treaty of Waitangi was all about the protection of property rights and Article III was about one law for all.

How can one rationally explain the happenings at Welcome Bay, Tauranga? Freehold property owners were told that they could not subdivide or develop their land - or even harvest their pine trees - because some individuals from the local iwi group who had sold the land some decades previously, had managed to get the Historic Places Trust declare their land wahi tapu.

Wahi tapu has been defined in the Historical Places Act as "sites and places sacred to Maori people in the traditional religious, ritual or mythological sense. Wahi tapu can be tangible or intangible and each iwi, hapu or whanau would determine what wahi tapu is to them."

The registration process for wahi tapu areas provides only for the general location and nature of the wahi tapu to be given in order to ensure a level of confidentiality. Protection is provided through the RMA processes. If indeed the land at Welcome Bay did contain special wahi tapu values then why was it sold by the iwi group? Even if we ignore that, how could the group, having sold it then expect to exercise constraints over the use of that land on spiritual grounds?

With this designation the normal use of freehold land is totally constrained requiring applications to the local District Council who in turn are required to consult and take into account the views of the local iwi who initiated the wahi tapu designation.

Meanwhile representatives of the local iwi who owned surrounding land can happily farm, develop and fell trees on their property. There is not even archaeological evidence to support the claims. Small depressions in the land were found to be the vestiges of an old fence line.

It is always very difficult to measure investment and progress that does not occur because of metaphysical constraints but one example that still angers me is the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences' survey of the bed of Lake Taupo for geothermal activity.

In 1992 the Government transferred ownership of Taupo's lakebed to Tuwharetoa with all parties assuring New Zealanders of full public access. The deed of transfer specifically stated that public access to the Lake for recreational activities and scientific research would be maintained with no fees due.

In 1998 a German research minisub, the Jago, successfully completed a survey and a 60 Minute documentary titled Fire in the Lake screened over Labour Weekend of that year.

In 2001 the research submarine was brought back to New Zealand at considerable expense and languished in its packing crate on a wharf unused for many months before departing because Tuwharetoa refused the crown research institute the right to undertake the survey - or rather, demanded exorbitant fees before they would grant consent.

The opportunity to undertake vital research work was lost because the crown research institute allowed itself to be bullied by Tuwharetoa using spiritual arguments and exercising powers and rights that it did not hold.

We have a similar incident with the crater lake of Mount Ruapehu. There is a clear pattern that after periods of significant eruption the water level in the crater lake rises to the point where it cannot be contained by the fragile ash retaining wall and catastrophic lahars result. In 1953 the Tangiwai disaster was the result of such a lahar following the 1945 eruption.

We had a significant eruption period in 1995 and experts tell us that similar lahars can be expected within the next few years as the lake level continues to rise.

The danger could be averted by draining the lake level below the danger zone but in response to spiritual arguments DOC will not entertain this option and instead is installing alarms and extremely expensive stop banks which are likely to be ineffective in preventing serious damage to state highways, the national electricity grid, the main trunk line, ski fields and local communities.

Over the last decade many investments have been delayed or totally thwarted by metaphysical claims. An unhealthy industry is flourishing based on extortion and the exploitation of defenceless metaphysical beliefs and values that have been turned into law.

This week in Parliament the Government has been attempting to pass Trade Mark legislation with special protection for Maori motifs, words and symbols. We have seen the Lego fiasco where Maori groups have attempted to ban the commercial use of Maori names.

If recent trends continue, one is forced to conclude that progressively the metaphysical messages creeping into our laws will be reinforced by a state monopolised education (indoctrination) system.

Property rights will be further debased and the respect of law eroded. This trend must be reversed.

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