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Winston Peters: This place was meant for you & me

Rt Hon Winston Peters - address to an East Coast public meeting St Andrews Hall, 176 Cobden Street, Gisborne at 12.30pm, Friday 19 November 2004.

"This place was meant for you and me!"

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we come bearing a Christmas gift.

It might be a little early - but it is one of the best gifts New Zealanders could hope for and we hope that you enjoy it.

We in New Zealand First have secured the beaches for you forever.

So Merry Christmas from New Zealand First - enjoy your beach and your sea this summer.

The passing of the foreshore and seabed legislation in Parliament this week marked an historic moment for New Zealand.

Without New Zealand First's initiatives and support, the legislation would not have made it into Parliament.

Without our intervention, New Zealand would have been condemned to endless, fractious and pointless discord over the issue.

Because the foreshore and seabed issue was starting to resemble the Western Front in the First World War.

New Zealanders were becoming bogged down in a quagmire of increasingly specious and futile claims and counter claims.

The voices of sanity, reason and compromise were besieged by the extremists, the mischief makers and manipulators

Did New Zealanders want that?

No!

The huge majority of New Zealanders - fair minded, reasonable and sensible people - saw beyond the controversy and said to Parliament - fix it!

In other words the public looked to Parliament for leadership.

One party, known for its ability to fix things, provided that leadership.

We took a stand.

And at the core of New Zealand First's stand was a simple test.

Where did the national interest lie in the seabed and foreshore issue?

Starting from that position we saw our task very clearly.

As a party, our aim was to ensure that the legislation would:

- serve the interests of all New Zealanders;

- provide an enduring basis for social harmony;

- be practical, reasoned and clear.

And that is what we have achieved.

The result is that now we can all go forward.

The legislation now vests ownership of the foreshore and seabed in the Crown on behalf of all New Zealanders and it protects customary rights for everyone.

Now we need not spend the next decade locked into an interminable squabble.

Make no mistake.

There are a number of interests that stood to gain by perpetuating controversy over the foreshore and seabed issue.

For example:

- The Treaty Industry;

- The Media;

- The Maori Party:

- The National Party.

They all saw themselves as profiting from a divisive, bitter and endless squabble.

Today I am going to reveal some truths about this issue and like the old saying sometimes the truth hurts.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this entire seabed and foreshore issue has been the cruel hoax that some Maori have played on other Maori.

It was a malicious deception, creating false beliefs and hopes for something that was never there.

This issue goes back to June last year when the Court of Appeal released its decision on the Ngati Apa case.

Members of Ngati Apa had been trying for years to get permits from the Marlborough Council for marine farms, only to be constantly declined.

They went to court and appealed several times prior to the Court of Appeal decision.

Now here is what the Court of Appeal actually said - in its view the Maori Land Court could hear claims in relation to the seabed and foreshore.

And the judges also said that customary rights may not have been extinguished, but that they could not imagine a case where they would exist.

So how did we go from that to declarations that Maori owned the seabed and foreshore?

Easily - by the mischief makers at the far Left and the far Right with the total compliance of the media who actually had the judgement sitting in front of them.

They chose to leave it out of their reporting. It interfered with the headlines.

These people told you that Maori owned the seabed and foreshore.

They have a lot to answer for.

They sent thousands of Maori marching on Parliament.

They twisted the Court's ruling to suit their own ends.

Well we know who they are. Some of the same mischief makers have been bleeding 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.

All New Zealanders, irrespective of race, deserved better than this.

They deserved the truth.

And again we were the party willing to give it to them.

The legislation has now been passed and we have seen off the mischief makers.

The legislation was needed to bring clarity to the issue and to spell out the rights of Maori.

It should have been resolved quickly and without political grandstanding.

We had all assumed that the Crown owned the seabed and foreshore.

What was required was to entrench this in law.

That was New Zealand First's position from the start, that is what New Zealanders wanted and now, thanks to New Zealand First, that is what the new law will do.

So all New Zealanders can go to the beach this Christmas knowing that the seabed and foreshore is in Crown ownership for all New Zealanders in perpetuity.

No one can sell it off, everyone has secure access and most importantly of all there is certainty about this.

It brings clarity where previously there was confusion.

So what else does the new law do?

- It guarantees public access;

- It secures customary rights for all New Zealanders - regardless of race;

- It ensures that we have one law for all New Zealanders in their access to the courts.

And this brings me to another myth that grew out of this debate.

Maori have not been denied their day in court.

That is how they will be able secure their territorial customary rights - through the courts.

So Maori have not been denied justice.

They have the same access to the courts as everybody else.

We also safeguarded legitimate business activities associated with the seabed and foreshore, such as port companies.

This was important because for a trading nation such as ours, the ability of ports to continue unencumbered is essential to our economic wellbeing.

Now let me repeat an assurance to Maori.

You have lost nothing.

You have a stake in the ownership of the foreshore and seabed through the Crown and more importantly - and your customary rights are now secure.

More secure than ever.

And along the coastline not far from here, it is likely the first customary territorial rights will be established.

The first seabed and foreshore reserves will be established and guardians appointed.

There is a very high threshold for establishing these rights.

Unbroken association since 1840 and ownership of the land next to the seabed and foreshore.

But - these areas cannot be roped off from the public and nor can any fee be charged.

The new law makes this clear.

When the debate started over this legislation members of parliament should have put their differences aside and acted in the national interest.

Instead, the National party in particular was guilty of confused and blatant politicking.

This was a further clear sign of their weak and confused leadership.

It lives in a perverse time warp in which there is no legitimate place for Maori except as subservient workers for their colonial masters.

The colonial tea planter strikes again.

National could have acted in the national interest but reverted to schoolyard tactics of juvenile protests with no substance.

This was a party that stated the seabed and foreshore must be in Crown ownership and agreed that customary rights had to be protected.

Then they voted against Crown ownership and customary rights.

Talk about confusion!

National, like every other party in parliament could have been part of this solution, but instead it chose to be a problem.

This is a disgraceful display from a party that used to believe in the name it bore.

Now we don't want to leave any false illusions about the political process and our cooperation with the Government.

We worked with Labour on this issue because it was in the national interest to do so. Just like we worked with Labour to set up a superannuation fund to help provide for New Zealanders when they retire.

It would be a mistake though to assume that our constructive relationship over the foreshore and seabed had any deeper meaning, beyond our commitment to achieve the best outcome for everyone.

Now I want to address very briefly one further issue that has arisen this past week.

The Government has unveiled a plan for a select committee to consider New Zealand's constitutional issues.

We in New Zealand First will not participate in this farce for it is truly a road to nowhere.

There are some issues Parliament is equipped to deal with but setting up a select committee of MPs to sort out the system under which we are governed is cynical and manipulative.

These MPs will work out what is best for MPs and political parties - not what is best for the rest of the people.

It is like putting a team of burglars in charge of security at a bank.

The select committee is simply not an appropriate forum for this type of discussion.

We in New Zealand First supported a commission of inquiry into the Treaty but the Government deceitfully abandoned this idea without telling us.

This select committee will be just like the select committee which looked into a review of MMP.

It was a sham, where self interested politicians looked after themselves. This will be no different.

We saw what happened when we debated the seabed and foreshore bill.

Extremists from National and Act claimed Maori were getting everything from this Bill while extremists of the Maori and Green parties claimed Maori had lost everything.

The facts were ignored. Their positions were entrenched.

This is what will happen in the select committee on the constitution. Entrenched positions will predetermine the outcomes.

This is not in the public interest and we will have no part of it. That committee will be disbanded after the next election - we promise you that.

New Zealand First pledges that any constitutional inquiry will be carried out by people of integrity outside the political system. MPs will be excluded - full stop!

There will be wide public consultation and a binding referendum on the outcome.

It is always better to trust the common sense of the people above the self interest of politicians.

Now, in conclusion we want to leave this thought with you.

We go into an election year next year.

When you go to the beach this summer, go fishing, swim or whatever, reflect on who it is you can really trust to look after your interests in Parliament.

As you watch the water lap over the foreshore, remember who secured it for you. Remember who put aside party politics in the interests of all New Zealanders.

We said we would fix it. We said it and we did it.

ENDS


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