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Building a two-hulled waka - Jeanette Fitzsimons

26 August, 2003

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP
Co-Leader
Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand

Building a two-hulled waka


Speech by Green Party Co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons during the
urgent debate in Parliament on the foreshore and seabed

I have called for this debate for two reasons. The obvious one is that the Government has just released a discussion document which is of great importance to pakeha and Maori alike about our uses of the coastal area.

The last few weeks have seen the biggest political beat-up on Maori I can remember. Fear has been whipped up out on the streets by opposition parties, and indeed by the Government’s own support party, as a political weapon in a calculated and despicable campaign to spread misinformation and hatred; it has done immeasurable damage to our evolution as a nation.

But behind that, and more importantly, the Greens believe we must bring out into the light the shadows of racial distrust and fear which have been magnified by this debate. Only by shining light into those dark corners and naming and facing those fears will we be able to move past them.

What New Zealander would not feel rage if provoked with thought of losing the chance to walk on the beach or go for a swim? What easier way is there to make all New Zealanders afraid of their neighbours and angry to defend their rights? How easy then to pose as the defender of those rights. Political campaigns are always more easily built on the manipulation of fear and the construction of a common enemy.

We have seen that with the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. We have seen the American public manipulated into thinking Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 in order to justify a war for oil. It is a tried and true political strategy and we should name it for what it is and condemn it.

So we have been confronted with imaginary images of Maori blocking our way to the beach, charging us for access, fencing it off with barbed wire. And this complete and utter fabrication has taken hold of vulnerable people who have begun to hate their neighbours. But there is not a shred of evidence. Not a single politician has offered any evidence of this and tangata whenua have said again and again that open access is within customary law and any restrictions, which are very likely to be for environmental reasons, can be negotiated or explained – as part of courteous relationships.

In fact, we all enjoy access to the shores of Lake Taupo and to Tokomaru Bay, where tangata whenua do have recognised legal title. We do have evidence of other landowners restricting access to the coast – where is the anger at them? The people who are currently trying to stop people from going to the beach – and illegally at that - are the likes of John Spencer on Waiheke Island. It was a running battle for years and the law was very slow to step in and remind him that a paper road is a paper road. The Ngai Tahu settlement recognised mana and recognised title to reserves and lake beds, while providing for public access and good conservation management.

As a nation we were founded on the notion of co-existence, not conquest. Over the years we have not lived up to that. There are many hopeful initiatives going on to try to recover that dream of the two-hulled waka but there is deep seated suspicion to overcome and they have been set back seriously by this stupid campaign.

With the publication of the Government paper the talk now is all of legal solutions, court determination of title, negotiation of rights. But there is no point in talking outcomes, talking solutions until we have a relationship to build them from. If the quality of the relationship between Maori and Pakeha, the Crown and iwi, is so soured that there is no trust, only fear and suspicion, no good outcomes are possible. So that is our first challenge. People of good will who want our bi-culturally based nation to work need to get down to their local marae and talk to their neighbours – and more importantly, to listen to them. It is very difficult to build trust on ignorance and misinformation. It can only really be built face to face. It is task we all need to undertake.

The Greens do not believe that recognition of customary title needs to undermine recreational access to the beaches. And that is what Maori have said too – Te Ope Mana a Tai, the group led by the Marlborough claimants, have said clearly that if their title is established they do not intend to prevent access to the beach for private recreational use.

We have two different cultural traditions here which can co-exist side by side if the relationship is right and there is good will. If the relationship is bad, no amount of legislating will fix it, or protect any of us from the rest of us.

People of European descent have a long tradition of the commons – what the Government paper is calling public domain - land that was owned collectively for the benefit of all. It was available for economic use like food gathering and for the enjoyment of the whole group but no-one could break it up and sell it. This is how we have seen the beach throughout out history.

Maori customary title was not that different. It was – and is – a collective right, held under the principles of tikanga, with an emphasis on use that preserves the gifts of the sea and shore for children and grandchildren, tamariki and mokopuna It conveys mana and the obligation of kaitiakitanga but it could not be individualised or sold. Nor should it be now. It is important to realise that Maori customary title could only become alienated when pakeha law interfered and imposed pakeha forms of ownership on it. The Maori Land Court was designed to separate Maori from their land by changing their customary collective title into freehold for sale. That should not happen to the foreshore and seabed.

Those who are clamouring for legislation to establish Crown ownership better reflect on this – do they really think this would protect the commons better? We have had nearly 20 years’ experience now of what can happen to Crown ownership. We used to think we collectively owned the railways! The BNZ! The leasehold land in the high country! The plantation forests! Maori customary title is arguably less threatening to pakeha access to the beach than Crown title which under a future government could be sold to private owners who really would exclude others.

So there is no reason why two sets of customs, two sets of rights, complementary but overlapping, should not co-exist – but first we have to step back from our fear and build a relationship. That means listening and understanding what is important to the other. Pakeha are clear that they want to continue to have a day at the beach, to catch a fish, puddle in the rock pools, throw a ball around. I think we all agree we need to protect this. Maori are saying they want recognition of their historical relationship with the sea, their mana and their kaitiakitanga; they want access to the resources of the coast, and a say in the decision-making. This also must be protected.

The Greens are very relieved that the Crown has stepped back from its initial proposal to legislate to establish Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed. Establishing exclusive Crown title would in our view have been a confiscation and a Treaty breach. I’m appalled that some in this House are still advocating that. They would set up new conflicts for generations. We do not believe that modern New Zealand wants a repeat of the Native Lands Act of 1865. They do not want a raupatu carried out in their name.

We do support the legal establishment of public access provided it sits alongside recognition of Maori customary rights. We are glad to see the resurrection of the concept of the “Commons” which has been largely denied in our individualistic society. But we are concerned at the downgrading of customary rights to “interests” which does not adequately express the strong identification between a hapu and its coastal area. We are concerned at the suggestion that tangata whenua wil have to go to the Maori Land Court to codify their “interests” and have rights awarded to them. Where customary rights exist they exist now. They do not exist by virtue of a court decision but through aboriginal title. If every “use” claimed by a hapu is going to have to be codified by recourse to the court that is a legalistic nightmare.

We support recourse to the Maori Land Court where necessary to resolve disputes about customary title but not to establish every use right that goes with it.

Perhaps the hardest principle for many New Zealanders – and certainly Government - to accept is that customary rights include a role in the decision making. This is one place where we do not agree with the position the Government has taken. If tangata whenua establish that their customary rights have been exercised since 1840 and still exist it is just not good enough for Government to take for itself all the decision making power about the management of that piece of the coastal marine area and subject the local hapu to “consultation”. We all suffer from “consultation” which exhausts and burns out many good people without in any way affecting the decision. The only long term future for us as a bi-cultural nation is to develop models of co-management, shared decision making which will not exist everywhere, will be different models in different places, will take time to build, but will be an exciting journey.

There are a few models starting to emerge. On a visit to Stewart Island last year DOC told me of a very successful relationship where one of the islands returned in the settlement is being replanted as a joint project.

In the coastal marine area decisions under the RMA and the Regional Coastal Plan are made by regional councils but some are starting to involve tangata whenua inside the decision making process rather than just treating them as another “interest” to be consulted. We need more of these examples because they offer the best promise for the future. A new Marine Reserves Bill is before my select committee at present. As a conservationist I know just how important marine reserves are in these days when the sea is always pushed to its limits to achieve the “maximum sustainable yield” and when information about marine ecosystems is still quite poor. But I also know that unless we develop a different structure where tangata whenua are involved in the decision making marine reserves will not be respected and will not work.

Customary rights of course also include rights to commercial development, as the Fisheries settlement has already recognised and implemented. In some ways that is easier to provide for, as commercial rights operate under the same legal system for Maori and Pakeha and can be resolved by an agreement on shares of the resource.

Why should there not be a sharing of coastal space for marine farming just as there is a sharing of fish quota?

The Government proposal raises important questions for New Zealanders to address. It does not provide all the answers. That shouldn’t alarm us as long as we are developing processes to build the sort of relationships that will be capable of developing the answers. It shouldn’t alarm us that the outcomes are still not clear as long as we have the starting principles right. But what puts the hope of building the two-hulled waka at risk is a six week consultation process. Building a robust building platform will need longer, I suggest. The eagerness to row hastily to tie up the ropes of legal security is of less enduring value than making provision for selecting the planks of agreement.

There are small initiatives happening in many places where Maori and pakeha are starting to understand each other better. We must foster them. I have watched one this week and I wanted to tell you about it because it was full of symbols for what we could become.

On Saturday I farewelled a very loved old friend who died far too young of cancer. It was the first tangi for a pakeha ever held on the Kaiaua marae. It challenged both sides – Ngati Paoa - Whanaunga to accommodate some pakeha custom on their marae including some people who did not understand tikanga. It challenged friends and family who found a marae an unfamiliar place where they did not feel entirely comfortable. But I think it was deliberate – much of Stella’s life had been about challenging us to get outside our comfort zone and listen to each other. Maniapoto had come the day before to pay tribute because she had been instrumental in the return of the Waitomo caves to the iwi. She had also helped and challenged them to manage them in a sustainable way

So here we have another example everyone accepts of Maori title, public access, Maori economic development and environmental protection all working together because there was trust and good will.

Around three hundred people gathered from both islands. Te Reo and English mingled in the ceremony.

A few metres away was the foreshore, and then the seabed of tikapa moana, the Firth of Thames. Centrally important to Hauraki for kaimoana, to pakeha for many kinds of recreation, to the godwits which fly there every year from Siberia. This is the place where in 1874 the chiefs of Hauraki gathered to discuss issues around the foreshore and seabed.

There are marine farm plans there from both Maori and pakeha, opposed by both Maori and pakeha. There are some hard issues to determine. But no-one will be having silly arguments about access to the beach or marching against each other because they have learned to talk, they have learned trust and they know they can work things out.


(ENDS)


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