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Turia: Report of the Special Rapporteur

General Debate

Tariana Turia, Co-leader Maori Party

Wednesday 5 April, 2006

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party rises to discuss the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.

A report which focuses on injustice wide across the political and social spectrum.

The report to the United Nations describes the Foreshore and Seabed Act as a process by which the Crown extinguished all Maori extant rights to the foreshore and seabed in the name of the public interest.

The Rapporteur recognised that Governments cannot unilaterally extinguish indigenous rights through any means without the free, prior and informed consent of the concerned indigenous peoples.

Maori did not give any type of consent to the action of the Government to the confiscation of the Foreshore and Seabed.

The Special Rapporteur therefore recommends that:

o The Foreshore and Seabed Act be repealed;

o Te Tiriti o Waitangi be entrenched in the constitution;

o The MMP electoral system should be constitutionally entrenched to guarantee adequate representation of Maori in the legislature and at the regional and local governance levels;

o the United Nations report also recommends that entrenching the Treaty constitutionally will create positive recognition and meaningful provision for Maori as a distinct people, possessing an alternative system of knowledge, philosophy and law.

Throughout the country today, Maori leaders have been commending the Rapporteur’s Report, for what John McInteer described as an ‘insightful and intelligent report’, a report which is wide-ranging and displays good understanding of the situation.

The Head of Maori Studies at Auckland University, Professor Margaret Mutu, says the government cannot keep ignoring international criticism of its treatment of Maori.

Next week, the four Maori Party Members will be embarking on a nationwide tour of our constituencies presenting the draft Foreshore and Seabed Bill to them, for their appraisal and comment. We will also be taking the report of the Special Rapporteur back to the people. We will be listening to Maori.

And what has our Government said?

Their own admission that “nothing much will happen” is now on public record as to how much they care about the status of United Nations reports, and even less for the wellbeing and prosperity of tangata whenua.

They have unilaterally discredited the report, those who contributed to the Rapporteur’s visit, the Rapporteur, the United Nations Committee, even the amount of days he spent in this country.

Millions of people throughout the world believe that the world was created in seven days. Nine days for the Rapporteur to assess our situation in Aotearoa is pretty good by that standard.

Treaty Settlements

Tangata whenua has been questioning the nature and process of the Treaty evasion that this Government has undertaken right across the policy spectrum.

The United Nation report states that the Maori ancestral land base has been appropriated by a variety of historical processes, including voluntary sale, fraudulent purchase, confiscation or alienations of land through legislative subterfuge.

Indeed, he suggests that whether the results and any redress is dependent on both the Government’s and the claimants’ willingness to reach an agreement, is a matter of coercion. Standover tactics used by the Government to force a settlement to conclude, could be referred to as extortion if John Citizen did the same thing in the street. One law for all? Or does it only apply to dogs?

In the view of the Special Rapporteur, such redress as may be negotiated in the historical claims process seems, on the basis of experience so far, to fall short of “just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered”.

In view of the importance of the Treaty as a founding constitutional document, the Special Rapporteur considers that the entrenchment of the Treaty of Waitangi in constitutional law is long overdue.

Rather than continue to disregard, dismiss, and deny, perhaps the Government could respond, calmly, in the light of day to the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur with these words:

“These wider constitutional and societal issues need to be debated responsibly and democratically by all social and political actors concerned because their solution will determine the kind of society New Zealand will be in the future”.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party does not think this is a big ask for this House.


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