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Foreshore and Seabed Bill

6 May 2004

Foreshore and Seabed Bill

First Reading speeches by Jeanette Fitzsimons, MP and Metiria Turei, MP

Speech by Jeanette Fitzsimons, Green Party Co-leader

The Green Party does not support this Bill.

It should be obvious by now that many thousands of other New Zealanders do not support it either, and they are not just Maori. They have come from every corner of New Zealand: grandmothers and tiny babies, kaumatua and rangitahi, at least 15,000 and some say 30,000, to tell us in this Parliament to taihoa.

They cannot understand why this government that they have supported for decades is doing this to them. The Prime Minister will not meet them. Yet they are her constituents - the loyal supporters and voters of the Labour Party and they don't appreciate being told they are only opposed to the legislation because they don't understand it!

As I walked with them yesterday I felt the power of their sense of betrayal, and also the power of their hope that this thing might still be turned round for the sake of all New Zealanders. It was a positive, good-natured hikoi. People sang, hongied, and hugged each other. I saw no violence, no hatred.

As I stood on the steps with my Green colleagues I remembered the last hikoi to Parliament which another Prime Minister refused to meet, and when another political leader was feted as the hope for the future. I remember seeing the banner "no more asset sales" and I remember the vote in Parliament just a few minutes before to sell Contact Energy, including a quarter of our electricity generation and the water rights on the Clutha River.

When NZ First members support this legislation they might like to recall that their election promise not to sell state assets lasted only until they walked out of their coalition with National. Crown owned foreshore and rights of public access can be sold the same way. Maori customary owned foreshore can't.

That is one reason this legislation is bad for Pakeha as well as Maori. Other reasons are that it sets a precedent for confiscation of legal rights; it undermines the Treaty - which is our Treaty too - and it makes us feel ashamed, locally and internationally.

This Bill will perpetuate bad environmental management. Around New Zealand, local authorities are still pouring raw sewage into the sea. They are still failing to protect fragile dunes, shell fish beds and nesting grounds from four wheel drives. They are still allowing totally inappropriate coastal subdivisions and commercial developments on historic iconic headlands like Cape Kidnappers, contrary to their own district plans. We need hapu and iwi to exercise their kaitiakitanga; to be part of the decision making about coastal management because they don't support desecration of the coast.

Our future as a nation depends on a good working relationship between Government and hapu in local communities. We desperately need co-operative negotiation over the Oceans policy; the Aquaculture policies; fisheries regulations; the Marine Reserves Bill. All of these are on hold until the Foreshore and Seabed issue is resolved. But resolving it by force, without the agreement of one party, will create conflict for generations.

This Bill, in conjunction with Don Brash's speech, has driven a wedge between people, stirring up false fears among Pakeha that their access to the beach is under threat, and destroying trust of Maori in Pakeha processes because they feel betrayed.

And it was all unnecessary. When the Court of Appeal decision came out the Government could have said "This isn't quite what we expected. But we have a Treaty partnership here, so lets sit down and find our areas of agreement and our areas of difference and negotiate a solution we can all live with."

The areas of agreement are large. No Maori leader I have spoken to is holding out for exclusive, freehold, saleable title. They agree there should be public access except in a few very special places - but they would like it to be freely offered and freely accepted, not snatched as though they were trying to withhold it. They want their kaitiakitanga and their mana recognised. They want a say in management decisions. They want some rights to commercial development, within the law. None of this is unreasonable and none of it excludes the rest of us.

A simple amendment to the Te Ture Whenua Act could provide that where customary title is found to exist the Maori Land Court could issue a collective, customary non-saleable title with negotiated public access registered on it.

A sharing of commercial development rights and management decision-making could be negotiated.

It is still possible.

Speech by Metiria Turei, Green Party Maori Affairs Spokesperson

Mr Speaker

It is still possible to negotiate a solution that affirms the rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga of Maori and meets the needs of the general public. But only if the government withdraws this legislation and talks with Maori.

The Ngati Apa decision gave the Government a perfect opportunity to recognise the political dimension embodied in Article 2 of Te Tiriti and how rangatiratanga could be implemented.

But instead the Government chose a patronising 19th Century extinguishment and confiscation that will haunt this country for generations. It was, and still is, an utterly irresponsible act. And, sir, it is contrary to law.

Because the Court clearly said that the Government wrongly assumed it owned the foreshore and seabed, that customary rights - rights which predate the Crown's acquisition of sovereignty - still exist in New Zealand law.

But the government also assumes that private title under the European law is sacred and that tikanga derived customary title is meaningless and without value.

It is this presumption that underlines the contempt this government shows to Maori, that underlines the discrimination inherent in this legislation because it confiscates a form of title that is held only by Maori and allows title issued according to European law to stand.

This bill will redefine customary title and turn it into a privilege granted by the Crown. That is the extinguishment of rights and the confiscation of land that is unconscionable.

The Government argues that this is not a confiscation because Maori can still go the Court to have their rights recognised. It is this they wave in public to assure the rest of the country that they are not abrogating the civil rights of New Zealand citizens. But that right is an empty baseless right.

The High Court cannot affirm the full spectrum of customary title rights and responsibilities and nor can it grant any remedies for the loss of identified rights. What the Court can do is give you a list of exactly what you have had confiscated. How useful!

That Maori may then go to talk to the Government about that list of lost items is a farce.

And then, in an additional stab in the guts, the government negotiates with New Zealand First, a party headed by a Maori MP, for the High Court to grant territorial customary title to any group of non-Maori. What, to build landfills and toilets on the waahi tapu and coastal land, to pump sewage on our seabed?

This provision perverts the international common law doctrine of customary title and its application in Aotearoa.

Customary rights cannot, in law, apply to anyone other than the peoples with whom sovereignty resided before colonisation.

This legislation co-opts and perverts this legal concept to mask the expropriation of customary rights.

The Court of Appeal found in law that the Government had wrongly assumed it owned the foreshore and seabed. In response the Government will extinguish legal rights, confiscate land and put our foreshore and seabed at serious risk of future alienation and environmental degradation.

This Parliament is at a pivotal moment in our nation's history. The Greens ask the Government to withdraw the legislation and sit down with Maori and have a real dialogue about other viable solutions.

Of the 13 Maori MP's who have not yet turned away from this legislation, I want to say, we know where the injustice of this bill will lead this country. How can any of us wilfully and knowingly subject our people to this theft?

We all, Maori and Pakeha, in this parliament have the choice right now whether we take the path back to our colonial, paternalistic history of confiscations, unrest and injustice. Or we put on the brake, withdraw the legislation and take a path of deliberation, cooperation, peace and justice.

Sir, it is not yet too late.


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