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John Tamihere's Urgent Debate Speech - Hansard


Tuesday, 26 August 2003 4:30 PM


Government Proposals for Seabed and Foreshore

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Youth Affairs): Authorised text to be inserted by Hansard Office

Before I commence my contribution to the debate, it is very important that we acknowledge those who have gone on before us. Today I make a special acknowledgement of one of our dear colleagues who is at home in Napier today. I acknowledge his loss, and the loss of that of his family. We wish them all the love and strength over the next wee while as Mr Fairbrother and his family handle their difficulties.

In debates like this we look around this hallowed Chamber and see carved into its walls the names of many battles in which many of our ancestors fell for the greatest attributes that this nation has as its underwriters. Furthermore, we are proud of them and of the loss that they bequeathed to us, but, more importantly, we must always remember the chapter in the nationhood story that they paid the ultimate sacrifice for. I now entreat members to read a pamphlet written by Sir Apirana Ngata, a member of this House in 1943.

It is called The Price of Citizenship. It was written off the back of the number of times he had to go to see his nieces to tell them that his nephews would not be coming home. In our nationhood story the reality is that much has happened that we should be proud of. Obviously, things have happened that we should not be proud of, but notwithstanding that, on behalf of the people who I represent, we have given much, and contributed much.

At the end of the day, on the way forward we must be factored into the equation. All title in this country traces itself to a Mâori customary title. This is a fact. One cannot obtain a title in this country unless he or she can trace back to a title investigation case out of the Maori Land Act and the Native Land Court of 1865 onwards. The whole title system is founded on customary rights. This is a legal fact, and it was laid down in a number of pieces of legislation out of this House. Customary rights underpin the nation of Kiwi nationhood, and their customary Mâori rights; not customary Westminster rights.

If we understand our history we will not be bequeathed the mistakes of it. The reality is that there is a huge bevy of precedent and law on the basis of what customary rights are. In 2003 the Court of Appeal made a very important decision. For the first time it did not declare the extent or the scope of our customary rights, but it founded it. It founded Aboriginal title. This right and these ranges of usages go to the heart of the constitution upon which we actually drive our whole constitution from. This is not about a treaty-founded right. This goes right to the heart of our constitution. It is about our common law rights.

Members opposite refuse to know what our constitution is. They do it in a mischievous fashion. They have sat here for years in this House and known about it, but when they are on the Opposition benches they want to know about not developing a nation but dividing it, like the member for Coromandel over there—the redhead that runs up and down Thames maliciously driving divisions in the communities in the Coromandel, my own ancestral homeland. She is the type of member who the National Party just love to have in its ranks at the moment. She is redhead and rednecked. It is disgraceful what that member gets up to in the Coromandel.

As we move forward, as Mâori communities do we acknowledge that there is some treaty fatigue? Of course we acknowledge that. Do we acknowledge that iwi in a number of circumstances always stand for “I want it. I want it”? Of course we acknowledge that. Are we far away from the end of nationhood? Not too far. The proposal that the Government laid on the table last week goes a long way to address a number of things. It states four major principles.

The first is the principle of access. From the time of the Court of Appeal decision onward we have laid to rest the extant existing rights, both private and public would be protected. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General said that, we say it, and we repeat it. We are sick of the mischief making on the Opposition benches for cheap political polling requirements. Even that is not working.

Will Opposition members get it into their heads that it is not working? We protect the private and public rights of access to all Kiwis to foreshore and seabed extant. That answers the Hon Nick Smith’s mischief-making foursquare. The next step is the right to regulate. As the Deputy Prime Minister said in this debate, we have the right to regulate. While there is a public domain, the public domain is simply this: us Kiwis have a right in 2003 to write our constitution.

That is what this Parliament is about, and that is what this debate should be about. We have a right to write public domain into our legislature. We do not have to take Westminster precedent all the time, and determine that to be the case. We have a right to shape and to design our own destiny.

That is why I am grateful to be under this leadership in this Government, and in this party driving this particular nationhood chapter forward. When our grandchildren look back on it they will say that we were blessed by some privileged statesmanship and leadership. Thank the Lord that we are here, and Opposition members are over there.

All they want to do, from the leader of the Opposition to the leader of Dad’s Army over there, the member for Tauranga, is to divide and rule. They know how to burn but do not know how to build. They know all about smarminess, but nothing about how smart and creative we can be. The second right is the right of the Government to regulate. That goes to the heart of our sovereignty and our constitution.

That is the safeguard in this whole proposal. It is the safeguard for all Kiwis. The third principle is the one of the protection. Under no circumstances can one override a common law right founded 5-0 by a Court of Appeal. That is a beacon to the highest form of injustice to overwrite it.

Nick Smith, Bill English, and Winston Peters wants that to happen. In our constitution we cannot allow that. That would be a beacon call to Mâori to revolt. That is not the type of nationhood that we want to hand on to our grandchildren. The fourth issue is the right to certainty. Kiwis need to know that there is a Government that can regulate and define the issues for them.

We will do that for them, but we will not override the right of protection. As I have indicated, the Mâori Land Court will be resourced to explore the extent of the customary rights. I want to conclude by saying that I do not agree with ownership or title. Those are West European judaeo-Christian, Westminster legal system attributes and values.

They bear to resemblance to Mâori rights. Our rights are about the right to bequeath, to protect, and to hand on. It has nothing to do with the monetary value that the Opposition wants to apply. I am grateful that we have a Government that has put a proposal on the table. I look forward to Kiwi communities engaging in it and coming back to us fruitfully. We will legislate for it.

Kia ora.


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