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Flavell: Urgent Debate on Whangamata

Urgent Debate on Whangamata Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki 14 March 2006

Madam Speaker, we come to the House today, commending the long-term commitment of Hauraki Maori to protect the coastline in the public interest of the community of Whangamata.

Their actions speak to us of some key values that should resonate throughout this House.

Values of Honour; of integrity; of kaitiakitanga, of respecting the covenant of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We want today, to acknowledge the commitment and perseverance of the Hauraki Maori Trust Board, Te Kupenga o Ngati Hako, and other iwi groups who have fought a valiant battle to preserve the mauri of the natural environment and cultural heritage of their rohe.

Their submissions, their appeals have played a huge part in informing the Minister's decision.

They argued that the harbour would be polluted, that access to shellfish restricted and other kaimoana destroyed.

We, the Maori Party, congratulate them today.

Madam Speaker, we want to remind this House today that the process that the Members signed up to, is the same process that they are now criticising.

Whilst we do indeed agree with the outcome of this decision for the people of Whangamata, we must make it very clear that we do not agree with some members of this House, that he somehow subverted the process - when indeed the Minister followed the process to the word of the law.

There was always a clause in the law which enabled the Minister to have the last say.

He followed the process and that's why we're here today.

We have a saying, in Te Ao Maori,

E kore te patiki, e hoki ki tona puehu

The flounder never returns to where it has disturbed the sand.

In much the same way, we shouldn't revisit policies which all of you in this House, (I wasn't here at the time) are architects of.

Having developed a process, and then having encouraged the people to follow a process, it is somewhat ironic that in today's chamber, we are hearing members speak with such rage and such indignation that the process was overturned.

We do, however, have some very real concerns about whether this was a legal dilemma or a moral one.

We need to ask - does the means justify the end?

Did the Minister anticipate the upheaval that has resulted, following the Minister's decision?

Did the Minister anticipate that the Environment Court would turn the applicant down?

We have heard reports of racist abuse and racial slurs being cast throughout the community. This was not an outcome that any of us would have anticipated.

Is this decision with Whangamata part of the government ethos of one law for all?

Because the last time they made a decision like that Maori people suffered.

This time, it is Pakeha folk from Whangamata that are suffering. Except the surfers, the environmentalists and ecologists.

I ask Members today to cast their minds back a couple of years, to another controversial decision, a decision made by other Ministers, in over-turning the Court of Appeal finding.

It is not too long ago that in June 2003, the Court of Appeal released a decision that the Maori Land Court had jurisdiction to determine the status of the foreshore and seabed under Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993/Maori Land Act 1993.

Tangata whenua have always enabled others to enjoy access to the foreshore and seabed, and that fact should have been appreciated.

Instead the Prime Minister and Attorney-General chose to intervene, and deny due process, and the rest is history.

I had to laugh listening to the Minister's speech at his faint rebuttal that this Bill was in the interests of Maori -

Well, how lovely, - perhaps we can count on his support when we submit our bill for the Repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act later this year.

Funny - I didn't hear him saying those same things a couple of years back.

Madam Speaker, we applaud the decision this time, at Whangamata.

We commend it in the way it has drawn public attention to the loss of coastal habitat, the increased sediment and contaminant levels in the harbour, and the impact this was having on the well-being of the people.

Coastal areas have always been rich sources of resources for tangata whenua.

Coastline iwi have consistently followed management practices which both established and enforced harvesting limits, and also maintained the health of the ecosystem on which the resources depended.

Coastal habitation sites like Whangamata are absolutely vital to the identity of iwi - as well of course being something of a cultural icon to surfers, to ecologists, to holiday makers, to New Zealand families.

It is a very positive decision made by the Minister, which reflects the influence of indigenous holistic thinking.

However, we also fully appreciate that the Marina Society will be reeling from the economic effects of the lost opportunities they would consider come with this decision and we would hope that the Government will consider issues of repayment to those people.


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