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Speech by Green Party Maori Affairs Spokesperson

5 May, 2004

Speech by Green Party Maori Affairs Spokesperson, Metiria Turei in General Debate

Mr Speaker

We have a leadership crisis in our country.

What national leader of a modern democracy with any self respect could possibly say, in public and with a straight face, that she prefers the company of sheep to that of her constituents?

What national leader could accuse thousands of her constituents, those that have supported her and her party for nearly half a century, welcomed and awhi'ed her on their marae, of being "haters and wreckers"?

These comments are the sort made by someone who knows in her heart that she is wrong. New Zealanders are ashamed to have those comments made in their name.

We have today outside the walls of the House thousands of people on Parliament grounds. These people are from all walks of life, young, elderly, Maori, Pakeha. They have travelled hundreds of kilometres from both ends of our country to be here today.

They are here to legitimately demonstrate their absolute opposition to the confiscation of land and abrogation of customary rights perpetrated by the Prime Minister and the Labour Government in its foreshore and seabed legislation.

They are here to protest the utter contempt shown to them by this Labour government and the other political parties who support this legislative confiscation.

Because the foreshore legislation is fundamentally wrong. It is legislation which discriminates on the basis of race as it only applies to foreshore and seabed areas that may belong to Maori as customary land. And, of course, customary land is a form of title that only Maori can have under the law. It overturns internationally recognised common law and breaches our own bill of rights as well as international human rights conventions. This legislation is unjust. And utterly unnecessary.

Throughout the debate over this legislation Maori have repeatedly argued that the concerns of the Government were entirely resolvable by good faith discussion and negotiation. The Waitangi Tribunal also clearly identified the areas of common interest that could form the basis of a good faith discussion. I went to almost all the hui on the foreshore legislation and heard, hui after hui, the offers of Maori to sit down and really work through cooperatively with the Government to come to a solution that everyone could live with.

But instead of taking up the offer to at least try to work through the issues together, the Government chose instead to resort to the logic of our colonial past, to legalise illegitimate policy, alienate thousands of Maori and Pakeha, extinguish legal rights, confiscate land and put our foreshore and seabed at serious risk of future alienation and environmental degradation.

Under the bill the foreshore and seabed is more vulnerable to sale than ever. There is no provision to enhance or promote the sustainable management of the foreshore. The failed, abusive process up to this point weakens future prospects of cooperative development of marine reserves and costal protection initiatives.

On top of this, Maori are treated as second class citizens to whom the fundamental principles of justice do not apply.

The Green Party supports those Maori and Pakeha who have gathered today at Parliament and in local communities around the country to oppose this legislation. We agree that there is no excuse for this raupatu and that there are viable alternatives that are just. We agree that this country needs a solution premised in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, that respects the needs of the whole community and the integrity of Tangaroa for his own sake. And all it would take is a simple and respectful acknowledgement.

So I implore Helen Clark. Go outside and meet with your constituents, Go outside and meet with the people who have supported you for decades. Go outside and say: "We didn't get this one right the first time round. Let's put it on hold, sit round the table and together work out a solution that builds on our common ground and meets all our needs."

That would be a demonstration of genuine leadership.


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