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Don Brash Writes - No. 42, 20 October 2004

NZ National Party
Don Brash Writes
No. 42, 20 October 2004

John Tamihere

Mr Tamihere has admitted receiving a payout from the Waipareira Trust after earlier publicly saying he would not accept such a payment. Lianne Dalziel was caught out saying one thing publicly then doing another, and she was promptly sacked. The Prime Minister already has more than enough evidence to act decisively in Mr Tamihere’s case. John Tamihere should be judged by the same standards applied to Lianne Dalziel.

It is as simple as that.

Te Arawa Lakes Settlement

Last Friday, the Government and Te Arawa initialled a deed of settlement relating to 14 Rotorua lakes. National supports the speedy settlement of historical Treaty grievances but this agreement contains several worrying features, which have not been seen before in Treaty settlements.

First, the settlement will hand ownership of 13 Rotorua lakebeds to Te Arawa (Lake Okaro is currently owned by the Rotorua District Council). As National has argued in relation to the foreshore and seabed, lakes should be protected for all New Zealanders – by retaining them in Crown ownership. What sort of a precedent does this settlement set for the manner in which the Government will deal with our lakes and beaches?

Secondly, and even more worryingly, this agreement reopens a settled issue. Title to the Rotorua lakebeds had long since been legally placed in Crown ownership – this is not in dispute. In 1922, negotiations took place between the Crown and Te Arawa in which Te Arawa was represented by a prominent lawyer and Sir Apirana Ngata. They negotiated an agreement by which title to the lakes was vested in the Crown and Te Arawa was to be paid an annuity.

This 1922 agreement settled title to the lakes fully and finally. It does not need to be renegotiated. The fact that this settlement is being reopened demonstrates yet again Labour’s lack of commitment to bringing the Treaty grievance process to an end. If we continue down this path, our children and grandchildren will be resettling claims we thought had been resolved once and for all.

Thirdly, Te Arawa will be given significant rights as a result of owning the lakebeds, but few responsibilities. For example, they will be able to grant leases and easements in respect of the lakebeds and will also be able to impose conditions and charges on anyone who wants to build a structure on the lakebed. Even public utilities like telecommunications will have to have Te Arawa’s permission when they need to use the lakebeds.

But in general Te Arawa will not have to pay rates on their lakebed land. Nor will they bear the costs of managing the lakes. For example, they will not be responsible for controlling weeds or collecting rubbish on the lakebeds. These costs will continue to be borne by the public.

Finally, the settlement will establish the Rotorua Lakes Strategy Group. This group will have responsibility for the lakes’ management and will be made up of council and Te Arawa representatives.

The Strategy Group will work in the same way as a local authority joint committee. But unlike a local council committee, the people of the Rotorua area will not be able to get rid of the Strategy Group through voting in local body elections. It will be a permanent committee, enshrined in legislation and unable to be held to account by the local community.

Of course, Te Arawa is not a democratically elected body in the first place. So we will have the unusual and dangerous situation of giving governance powers to people who have not been elected and who cannot be voted out.

As well as these fishhooks in the deed of settlement, the Government has kept the Te Arawa deal largely hidden from the public. For example, Margaret Wilson didn’t show the heads of agreement to Parliament before the signing, which makes this a Labour Party deal, not a parliamentary deal.

Margaret Wilson also told us in the House that rights to the water and air space above the Rotorua lakebeds are excluded from the settlement. But a closer examination of the settlement deed reveals that things are a bit more complicated than the Government’s message. Te Arawa will in fact have special consultation rights in relation to the water and air space. Moreover, they will be exempt from gaining consent where they conduct certain cultural practices in these areas.

Clearly the Government is telling different stories to different groups. It is the same sort of deception we have seen over the foreshore and seabed, where Labour is striking secret deals with iwi while telling other New Zealanders the beaches will be in Crown ownership.

National opposes these parts of the Te Arawa settlement. They are undemocratic and have the potential to lead to Treaty settlements placing Crown-owned lakes in the hands of particular racial groups. Further, they reopen an already-settled issue, which is counter to National’s policy of settling historical Treaty grievances fully, fairly and finally. Full and final Treaty settlements must be full and final.

National believes the lakes should belong to everyone. This is the same policy we have on the beaches. They belong to all New Zealanders, irrespective of race.

Don Brash

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