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Bill English Speech: The Line In The Sand


Bill English Speech: The Line In The Sand


Leader of the Opposition

Speech to a Public Meeting at Welcome Bay, Tauranga

28 November 2002.

“The line in the sand”

Wellington political correctness versus the people.

It’s gone too far. And no one knows better than you - the people of Welcome Bay.

It has gone too far when people minding their own business in Welcome Bay have their land shut up by bad law, woolly thinking and opportunism.

It’s gone too far when the people who are supposed to do the job you elected them to do - administer the law - don’t know the law, and don’t care.

It’s gone too far when the faceless bureaucrats who created the problem are made out to be the victims, and landowners in Welcome Bay are made out to be the cause of the injustice they are suffering.

And if you think you have got it bad now, then I want to tell you worse is coming round the corner with the new local government law. It will enshrine two standards of citizenship in New Zealand - with ratepayers footing the bill for the privilege.

Labour’s changes to the Resource Management Act will do the same.

National stands squarely for the rights of voters, ratepayers and property owners - because you will pay the price for this Government’s politically correct policies.

National stands against the Wellington politically correct world-view where nice ideas turn in to constitutional change, and lost rights.

National will fight for a fair and open process that respects the rights of landowners.

We will need the support of people like you. Because these issues affect people like you.

Here in Welcome Bay, 180 hectares of land have recently been declared Wahi Tapu.

Local landowners are rightly outraged. And I’m here tonight to say that National will stand with you and fight with you because National believes in private property rights.

Let’s put Wahi Tapu in perspective.

I don’t want bulldozers ripping through the Dipton cemetery where my ancestors are buried. New Zealanders are decent people - they show respect for the dead and respect for our history. Any citizen should.

That’s what Wahi Tapu was intended to do.

Wahi Tapu areas were traditionally quite small. And they were left alone, for instance, food can’t be gathered from such areas.

But this Government has changed that. It is going to expand the powers of the Historic Places Trust that already has the final say on what is Wahi Tapu. They’re out of control, and the Government doesn’t care because it’s so politically correct.

Well, we care. You care. And together we can stop it.

This latest decision expands the scale of Wahi Tapu alarmingly.

Now, large areas - whole properties - can be effectively frozen.

I say to the Historic Places Trust that their actions undermine the real purpose of Wahi Tapu, to respect and protect burial grounds.

More disturbing is the reason why this happened.

Jack Steadman, kaumatua of Ngapotiki hapu, has said the Welcome Bay decision is “a load of nonsense.” He said the tribe were using it as a political tool to gain power over the private owners of the land.

He said, “The privately owned land is no longer Maori owned and, as long as any sacred areas are respected, these owners should not have restrictions placed on their land. This Wahi Tapu is a huge injustice.”

Jack Steadman’s comments are the voice of commonsense trying to rally the community instead of dividing it.

This is a local issue - for now, but it’s likely to get worse. The Historic Places Trust has dozens of applications coming in. We know now we can’t trust them - to establish the facts, to know the law, to protect the interests of landowners. They’re not likely to try too hard when they have been backed up in Parliament by the Prime Minister Helen Clark, just like she’s backed George Hawkins.

And do you know who the Minister is that’s in charge of the Historic Places Trust? Anyone know?

It’s Helen Clark. That’s right. She’s the Minister of Arts, Heritage and Culture. She’s the one who should know most about what’s going on, and she’s doing the least about it for you.

She is saying the landowner has no rights in this at all. The landowner finds out their land is Wahi Tapu by going down to the mail box and opening the letter.

The Historic Places Trust makes the decision - but the landowner does not have to be consulted and has no right of appeal.

The Historic Places Trust is advocate, judge and jury.

I understand the evidence to support the Welcome Bay Wahi Tapu designation is flimsy. For instance, the land wasn’t considered significant or sacred when it was freely sold in the 1960s.

Does the Historic Places Trust look at the facts, or is it that it can’t say “No”?

I think they can’t say “No”. So, they have lost sight of what really matters people’s livelihood, their hopes and dreams, their respect for their neighbours.

Well, what is Helen Clark doing about this?

Her Government is about to make it worse.

They plan to expand the powers of the Historic Places Trust, and to introduce the new concepts of “spirituality” and “ancestral landscapes” into their decisions.

Does anyone know what these terms mean?

Well, if you have any doubts, they should not be turned into law.

And the last thing that should happen is that these vague concepts be allowed to apply to some citizens and not others.

That’s what National means by two standards of citizenship.

You can’t trust bureaucrats to know commonsense if it’s sitting on their desk, particularly when their own Minister has given them a free hand with political correctness.

These plans will be “at the expense of private landowners seeking to develop their land - that’s our legal advice.

Helen Clark and the Historic Places Trust would have you believe that Wahi Tapu status doesn’t make any difference to the landowner. Of course it does. That’s the whole point. If it made no difference, Maori wouldn’t bother making the applications.

These are the people who are meant to be guardians of your rights, and they are wrong, and you have every right to tell them that.

It is simply not true to say a Wahi Tapu definition makes no difference. It effectively vetoes any activity on the site.

Once land is declared Wahi Tapu, councils and the Environment Court say nothing can be done on that land. We saw the story on telly the other night. John Upperton from Russell who was refused consent to put a drain in a swamp because it was Wahi Tapu.

We haven’t been able to find one example of a consent issued for activity on a Wahi Tapu site. That’s what you would expect - no building in the cemetery. So, it makes a huge difference. Don’t Helen Clark and the Historic Places Trust know what goes on in the real world?

National has an answer.

We will scrap the draconian powers of the Historic Places Trust. Instead, Wahi Tapu issues will have to be considered as part of the Resource Management Act.

That will shift the power to the local councils and give landowners their right to have a say. So, if a site was claimed to be historic or archaeological, such as a burial ground, the Historic Places Trust would become an “affected party”. It would have input to the decisions that would be made by your elected council or considered by the Environment Court.

This would have three main advantages:

Landowners would have to be consulted

There would be a right of appeal to the Environment Court

Decisions would be made by local councils - not bureaucrats in Wellington.

National will uphold property rights in the face of political correctness.

National will make sure people get a say in decisions that affect their property. National will secure a right of appeal

These are the rights any citizens should enjoy. These are the rights that will create certainty and respect.

These are the rights that make sure everyone gets a say where there are strong feelings about cultural issues.

And that means we’ll get commonsense decisions

The Government and its agencies need to learn how to say “no”, to be brave enough to sort out genuine concerns from ill-intentioned meddling

But you know they can’t say “No”. They can’t draw a line around commonsense and stick to it.

Well, National puts more trust in you and your commonsense than Labour and the bureaucrats any day.

One man’s view about a Taniwha will mean that a dangerous stretch of national highway isn’t made wide enough to save lives. I believe in the "hereafter”, but I’d rather drive on a safe road than find out if I’m right before my due time.

I have spiritual beliefs. Some of them are hard to explain - but they don’t have the force of law.

Labour is about to pass legislation that will give belief in the Taniwha the force of law in the Local Government Bill. I don’t think Helen Clark understands it any better than she understands the Wahi Tapu law.

Local Government

Helen Clark’s plan is to push through the Local Government Bill in the last week before Christmas, so you will be too busy to notice, so you will forget what’s in it. Maybe you won’t notice the biggest constitutional change since the introduction of MMP.

Maybe you won’t notice that some citizens will have rights that other citizens do not enjoy.

Maybe you won’t notice that Labour is scared to face hard issues on the Treaty and is trying to off-load all these problems on to your local council.

Local Government will have to take account of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. But the legislation doesn’t say what those principles are.

Before the last election, leading Government thinker Margaret Wilson was asked in Parliament what specifically were the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. She could not give a straight answer. No Minister can.

Plenty of lawyers and endless Government time has been spent arguing what those principles are.

The Government won’t and can’t sort it out, so it’s passing the hot potato to your council.

Our Constitution is changing - against the will of the people and without their knowledge.

This pre-Christmas rush is an act of political cowardice.

People think they pay rates in return for services like street lighting, rubbish collection, libraries, sewerage, parks, roads and drains.

This Bill changes all that. Councils will have to “recognise and respect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.”

I believe the Treaty establishes common rights and obligations whatever our background. It should be the basis for democracy - not division. But that’s not how the new law works.

The new law for your council will require that “any significant decision a local authority wants to make will have to take into account the relationship Maori have with land, water, flora and fauna and other taonga.

What does that mean? Do you get a say? Where are the boundaries between the “relationship” and the rights of property owners?

What’s to stop politically correct bureaucrats running wild?

Does this sound a bit like the Wahi Tapu problem ?

Whenever local authorities carry out any consultation - they will have to have special processes for consulting Maori.

Councils will have to establish who are the right Maori representatives to deal with.

The new legislation will allow local authorities to establish separate Maori seats on your local councils. The councillors will be elected from Maori-only wards.

A local authority can simply declare there will be separate Maori representation. People will have to get together a petition to stop it.

We have already seen strong feelings on this matter in a debate in the Bay of Plenty. It is certain to be divisive in the Waikato, Northland, Taranaki, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and other places.

This law has the potential to tear these communities apart - for no good reason. No one has asked for it.

And all of this will be subject to legal review under the expensive and complicated consultation provisions, more work for our already overworked lawyers.

And who will pay for all of this?

The ratepayer. You.

Helen Clark has lost herself over Wahi Tapu - with all the resources of the Government, who spend millions on advice for this sort of thing.

What chance does a local council have, on your behalf, to find its way through this confusing and divisive way of dealing with Maori issues? And what chance have you got, if you end up on the wrong side of it?

This Local Government legislation entrenches two standards of citizenship in this country.

The legislation is a fundamental change to Government in New Zealand. It’s sneaky, it’s a backward step and New Zealanders deserve to know what’s going on. We can restore one standard of citizenship.

Conclusion

Labour just can’t say no, can’t draw the line.

We have drawn the line

I’ll tell you where National stands:

We stand with landowners who are seeing their land frozen by the Wahi Tapu process. Their fight is our fight.

We stand for one standard of citizenship and an end to political correctness that divides us. That’s why I urge you tonight to sign our petition and we will make sure your voice is heard in Wellington.


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