Peters: Seabed and Foreshore Bill 2nd Reading
16 November 2004
Rt Hon Winston Peters - Seabed and Foreshore Legislation - 2nd Reading Speech
From time to time in a democracy like ours an issue arises which requires politicians to put aside their differences and to act in the best interests of the nation.
New Zealand faced such an issue in June last year when the Court of Appeal released its ruling on the Ngati Apa case regarding the seabed and foreshore.
The decision came from left field and caught all involved by surprise.
We were told that the understanding we always had regarding the ownership of the seabed and foreshore needed greater clarity.
The issue seemed straight forward enough. We had all assumed the Crown owned the foreshore and the seabed.
With this in doubt, legislation was required to clarify the issue. This was the New Zealand First position from the time of the Court of Appeal decision.
And this is what we have secured:
Crown ownership in perpetuity for all New Zealanders
Guaranteed public access
Customary rights for all New Zealanders – regardless of race
One law for all in access to the courts; and
Certainty for all New Zealanders, particularly those with business activities linked to the seabed and foreshore like port companies.
This issue required a non-partisan approach of clarifying what we had all assumed to be the law.
It should have been resolved quickly and without political grandstanding.
Instead, almost every party in this house chose to play politics – much to the detriment of the nation as a whole.
Some saw this issue as a chance to promote a republican agenda by proposing the legal nonsense of a ‘public domain’ into the Bill.
If these people thought the Court of Appeal had made a strange decision with the Ngati Apa case, just imagine what sort of interpretation a court could have given with an inappropriate term such as ‘public domain’ in the legislation.
This had to be stopped.
We also had some Maori who became obsessed with an aspect of the Court’s ruling related to the process of securing customary rights.
Some, including lawyers who should have known better, helped create the hoax that some people owned the foreshore and seabed because of their ancestry.
But these people had their own agenda.
We must remember that many of them have been working the Treaty industry for years.
They are cynical and manipulative and saw an opening to add to the grievance industry.
This created unnecessary division, confusion and disharmony.
Maori and all New Zealander deserved better than this.
They deserved the truth. And again we were willing to give it to them.
For a time we were drowned out as the media and others worked themselves into a frenzy.
But the truth is now emerging.
We stayed the course on this matter and we have seen off these mischief makers.
Let me point this out again.
The Court of Appal did not say Maori owned the seabed and foreshore.
It simply pointed to the process of procuring Customary Rights – through the Maori Land Court, and then doubted that any would succeed.
This Bill both codifies what these rights are and the process of securing them.
It now goes through the High Court so it is available for everyone.
It brings clarity where previously there was confusion.
We have this warning for those in the Maori party who believe that their hoax over the seabed and foreshore will sustain them through to the next election.
There will be no mass dissatisfaction.
Maori like all New Zealanders will see that they have a stake in the ownership of the foreshore and seabed through the Crown and more importantly – their customary rights are now secure.
They will thank New Zealand First for this.
The next hïkoi will be to the ballot box and the party vote as acknowledgement at the next election.
However, it wasn’t just activist Maori engaged in spreading the confusion over the Bill.
The National party engaged in the most confused and blatant politicking of them all.
Sadly this was a further clear sign of their weak and confused leadership.
This leadership lives in a perverse time warp in which there is no legitimate place for Maori except as subservient workers for their colonial masters.
The tea planter strikes again.
National could have acted in the national interest.
Instead they reverted to churlish schoolyard tactics of juvenile protests with no substance.
This was a party that stated the seabed and foreshore must be in Crown ownership.
This Bill does all that, but they won’t support it.
Their report to the select committee said customary rights must be protected – this Bill does that, but they won’t support it.
Beaches for all they proclaimed – well guess what?
At Christmas time this year everybody is going to know who secured the beaches for all of us – New Zealand First.
National could have been part of this solution, but instead they chose to be a problem.
This is a disgraceful display from a party that used to believe in its name.
Now we want to make a few more points crystal clear today.
We worked with Labour on this issue because it was in the national interest to do so.
We worked constructively and the hard yards, put in primarily by my colleague Dail Jones with Dr Cullen and his officials, was an exemplary example of MMP at work for a positive outcome.
New Zealand needed this to happen.
It would be a mistake though to assume that our constructive relationship on this Bill has any deeper meaning, beyond our commitment to achieve the best outcome for all New Zealanders.
Let me conclude with the following advice.
Those parties who are thinking of voting against this Bill should think very carefully about that decision.
Take a deep breath - and remember you are voting against Crown ownership.
If they really believe that they can explain to New Zealanders why they did not support Crown ownership when the opportunity was there for them to do so – good luck!
We know which side nearly all New Zealanders are on.
The opportunity still exists for some parties to put aside political agendas and do what is right for New Zealand.
We will think more of them for doing so and your country will thank them.
This is not some token issue.
This is the real thing.
New Zealanders know we don’t see eye to eye with this government over a lot of things.
But when there is a threat to our common heritage and our birthright, we have to act together, just like we do in times of war.
This issue threatened to shake the foundations of this nation.
New Zealand First is proud to have fixed it.
We said we would fix it and we have.