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Tamihere: Maori and the coast

6 August 2004

Maori and the coast

Speech to New Zealand Coastal Conference, Waipuna Conference Centre, Auckland, Friday, August 6, 11am


Thank you for inviting me to speak at your conference and for your warm welcome. The coast and a few issues relating to it have certainly attracted more than a little attention in recent times.

There has been much discussion and debate on the foreshore and seabed and I believe this is a sign of a healthy and dynamic society. It is important that such issues of major national importance can be freely considered and discussed. I have been asked to cover a number of issues today. The first of these is:

The coast and traditional Mâori values

It may be timely to explain some basic traditional Mâori concepts that could assist your understanding of where Mâori are coming from in regard to the coast and the foreshore and seabed.

Mâori see themselves as tangata whenua, the first people of this land, the original occupants. From that viewpoint, they feel that they have certain rights, affirmed by article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi (and I will expand on that later).

Existing alongside the concept of tangata whenua is the concept of mana whenua, mana moana. This is about a group, usually a hapû (sub tribe) or whânau (family) holding propriety status over a given area.

The term tangata whenua has several levels of meaning. Firstly, Mâori are the native people or first people of the land. Secondly, members of an iwi are tangata whenua in their tribal rohe (or traditional area), to the exclusion of members of other iwi. Thirdly, members of a hapû are tangata whenua in their hapû rohe to the exclusion of members from other hapû. Lastly, within a hapû’s rohe, certain lands and waters are acknowledged property of a particular whânau, whose members hold tangata whenua status over that property. Tangata whenua have not only the right to harvest the marine resources of the coast, but also bear a responsibility to care for those resources. This is the custom of kaitiakitanga, sometimes translated as guardianship.

The expectation is that they will use resources in accordance with a strict culturally supported code of practice manifested in the system of tapu and noa. This ensures that resources such as shellfish and fish species will continue to be available for harvesting.

The degradation of cultural mores that bond and bind Maori mean we need to build our own disciplines and standards. The expectation I have just expressed is therefore varied, depending on where in New Zealand you are.

I regret that a number of Maori do not live up to our customs regarding guardianship, and on a number of occasions have desecrated our resource. As Maori we must become far more responsible in not only preaching our culture, but also in practising it.

While most iwi and hapu uphold these ideals, it is very disappointing, to say the least, to hear reports where Maori have been implicated in plundering our coastal resources.

Another cultural concept is that of manaaki manuhiri - being a good host to visitors. This manifests itself primarily through food – being able to place delicacies on the table for visitors. Because so many of these delicacies originate in the sea, Mâori in a traditional sense see themselves as having to retain their mana whenua, mana moana status in order to honour the wider set of cultural responsibilities they have to shoulder.

Foreshore and Seabed

If we start by looking back, prior to the arrival of Europeans, all land in New Zealand, including coastal land and the foreshore and seabed, was the property of Maori.

Of course there were give and take boundaries but no one group dominated to the extent of widespread occupation following success in war.

With settlement and the establishment of colonial government following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, new laws and processes were introduced.

Article 2 of the Treaty provided that Mâori property rights would be protected and that Mâori would be able to retain their property for so long as they desired, but if they did wish to sell, then they could only sell to the Crown.

Article 2 of the Treaty is not too much different to the situation under British common law, where upon a change of sovereignty, existing property rights remain intact until they are freely alienated by the holders or acquired by other means – for example by legislation. In the case of acquisition by legislation, a general rule under the common law is that if Crown acquisition is in the nature of a ‘taking’, then compensation must be provided.

If we look now at the bits of land that aren't covered by the sea, most of New Zealand has been alienated or acquired from Mâori to the extent that Mâori freehold land now constitutes only 5-6 per cent of our total land.

We do have different laws on land tenure matters, make no mistake about it. There is no on law for all. The Maori Land Court title system has a totally different framework from the Torrens on general land law.

Transfers of land out of Maori ownership included substantial Crown acquisition by confiscation or other means where no payment was made or the consideration was less than promised or inadequate. Most of our major Treaty of Waitangi settlements relate to such transfers.

In regard to the foreshore and seabed, some Mâori take the position "It has always been ours and it still is – we haven’t sold it and no one including the Crown has come to us and talked about acquiring it from us."

Others contend that the Crown owns it - and the Foreshore and Seabed Bill proposes that the foreshore and seabed be held by the Crown on behalf of all New Zealanders.

The Court of Appeal ruling last year opened the possibility (and that was only a possibility, and far from a certainty) of Mâori being able to establish fee simple title in the foreshore and seabed.

The government considered that such an outcome could create serious difficulties, and so it introduced legislation to clarify ownership rights in the foreshore and seabed.

I support that legislation, which will clearly and unambiguously place the foreshore and seabed in Crown ownership and provide statutory public access rights to New Zealanders.

The use of the foreshore and seabed should be available to and be enjoyed by all New Zealanders as a birthright.

We must start the conversation from a clear base. It is beyond doubt that the foreshore and seabed is Crown owned. The Crown will then unbundle, subject to evidence from Maori, a range of incidents to Maori.

The desire to hold fee simple title to the foreshore and seabed is not a right that is upheld in my view by traditional Maori practice and tikanga. What the Foreshore and Seabed Bill quite rightly does provide is acknowledgement and protection of customary Mâori rights.

It ensures that I can carry out my responsibility to hand down to my children what my father handed down to me in relation to my rights to the foreshore and seabed – no more and no less.

The foreshore and seabed has presented some difficulties for government. However, I believe the Foreshore and Seabed Bill strikes a fair balance in addressing the interests, rights, needs and aspirations of all New Zealanders, including Maori.

Mâori coastal development

Mâori are important players in marine industries in New Zealand, particularly in fishing and aquaculture. Mâori interests now own about 37 per cent of inshore fisheries quota.

With the recently announced aquaculture offer that provides Maori with a 20 per cent stake in the marine farming industry, Mâori are poised to make an even greater contribution in this important sunrise industry.

In 2003 New Zealand's aquaculture industry was worth $285 million – and it is forecast to have export earnings of more than $1 billion by 2020, overtaking our much-vaunted wine industry as an export earner. It is fantastic that Maori will play an active role in this exciting new industry.

The coastline is also home to many large Mâori owned forestry ventures spreading from the long established Aupôuri, Pouto and Otakanini forests in the north, down both coasts to the south.

Mâori are also increasingly involved in coastal tourism initiatives, ranging from the internationally renowned Kaikoura Whalewatch venture, to guided ‘nature’ tours on Rakiura or Stewart Island, to deep sea and other fishing tour businesses, through to many mixed marae/cultural/fishing/home-stay businesses.

The coast has also provided the inspiration for many Mâori based commercial ventures in arts and culture – probably the best example would be the film The Whalerider.

Mâori and coastal conservation

As I touched on in my comments on traditional Mâori values, kaitiakitanga is perhaps the key component for Mâori in their relationship with the sea.

Kaitiakitanga embraces conservation and the maintenance of the ocean's bounty. Respect for the sea and its capacity to continue to provide as a "kâpata kai" or food cupboard was of vital importance to Mâori and these values have carried through to today - albeit with some exceptions as I have mentioned previously.

Activities that damage the health of the coastal environment, fisheries and the sea are viewed most seriously by Mâori. To hear recently of sewage overflows that have restricted Maori (and other people) from gathering shellfish in some areas has been extremely concerning. Another difficulty may arise is overseas ownership of coastal land, particularly that new owners may have acquired land without being aware of the Mâori interest and relationship with the adjoining coastline and sea. Understandings with previous owners about matters such as access to burial sites or access for kai moana may not have been passed on to the new owners, and tensions can arise as a result.

The new legislation should assist in this regard by making provision for customary rights to be secured and acknowledged through the court process or by agreement and to be recorded in the foreshore and seabed registry as a matter of public record.

Mâori aspirations for the coast

New Zealand is a small island nation surrounded on all sides by vast expanses of ocean. Our continental shelf extends almost to Australia, so the sea represents a national resource of huge potential to New Zealand, not only for its fisheries but also for potential energy generation, minerals, petroleum resources and other uses as yet undeveloped.

Mâori have a strong affinity with the coast and the sea and regard their own coastal areas with reverence and affection. And by saying that I do not intend in any way to detract from the equally genuine feelings and associations that all New Zealanders have with the coast.

Desire by Maori to be involved in future coastal development is strong. They will, in many respects, share similar aspirations to those of other New Zealanders. However they will also bring with them the cultural values associated with Kaitiakitanga and Manaakitanga.

A future I would like to see for our coast is one where: Mâori continue to play a major role in the fishing and aquaculture industries Mâori play a leading role in coastal tourism Mâori are involved in coastal development to more effectively utilise their coastal land holdings adjoining the foreshore and seabed Mâori owned coastal land is released from some of the restrictions that prevent its fullest and most effective utilisation A New Zealand where all New Zealanders regard themselves as having a kaitiaki obligation to the coast and treat it accordingly.


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