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Local Government Law Reform Bill

Local Government Law Reform Bill

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki;

Maori Party Local Government Spokesperson

5 April 2006

Mr Speaker, as Member for Waiariki, one would think I would be very proud to think that the centres of Maketu and Kawerau yesterday hit the world news-stands.

But instead, it is a matter of great shame, that the Crown has been called to account for their treatment at Maketu and Kawerau by an international human rights expert, Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

The report from the Special Rapporteur recommended that :

“The Crown should take an active interest in supervising the compliance of the paper company in cleaning up the waste site at Kawerau and the waste disposal build-up at Maketu”.

These are not new issues - the Kaituna Claim was first lodged back in 1978. Our people have consistently presented their objections to the environmental abuse, the contamination, the waste disposal build up, occurring at both Kawerau and Maketu over at least two generations.

Consultation process with mana whenua inadequate

Turning to my Northern whakapapa, we learnt today also of the situation of Ngati Wai who are suing Conservation Minister Chris Carter and the Department of Conservation for their handling of consultation issues in Northland about marine reserves and offshore islands.

Ngati Wai elder Hori Te Moanaroa Parata had this to say about the nature of the Crown’s consultation:

“DOC and the Minister think they have been consulting with us. What they have been doing is insulting and almost assaulting us”.

Mr Speaker, this cannot go on.

How many international experts, reports from United Nations committees, Special Rapporteurs, damning releases from iwi leaders can this Government simply disregard as ‘the view of one man’ - or respond by saying ‘nothing much will happen’.

Remember Shrek? Haters and wreckers?

It is all coming home to roost.

The Special Rapporteur has brought to international focus the marginalisation of tangata whenua from local governance. It states that little more than five percent of members elected to local councils are Maori.

The Special Rapporteur reported how many Maori legal authorities had advised him that they consider it constitutionally improper to force claimants to waive their entitlement to the protection of the courts when they negotiate settlements, especially as it is achieved through coercion.

What we are getting, as the kaumatua from Ngati Wai himself points out, is that despite the willingness of the people to engage in constructive dialogue, to work with the Government in the interests of responsible local governance and marine protection, the Government continues to pull the rug from under their feet.

And here we are again today, with this minority Labour Government trying to coerce this Parliament into accepting an enormous Omnibus Bill amending the

o Rates Rebate Act 1973;

o the Dog Control Act 1996;

o the Litter Act 1979;

o the Local Electoral Act 2001;

o the Local Government Act 2002;

o the Local Government Act 1974;

o the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002;

o the Auckland War Memorial Museum Act 1996 and the

o Land Transport Act 1998.

The Maori Party will continue to voice the views of our people, outside of this House and inside, on the critical matters of local government, of rating, and as we mentioned in our speech in the second reading - on dog control and dog tax.

Maori Being Rated off their lands

We want to make special mention of the rating issues included within this Bill. The Bill amends the provisions of the Local Government (Rating Act) in relation to the information a local authority is required to include in its rating information database. We have to ask this House, to what purpose will this information be put to, and will it be in the interests of Maori landowners?

Members of this House will of course be aware that the imposition of rates on Maori land from 1871 to the Ratings Act 1908, was resisted. Speeches by Maori Members of Parliament as each piece of legislation was introduced, continued to articulate that resistance.

Resistance to imposed rating charges

Even as recently as ten years in 1996, the Labour Member for Southern Maori, Hon Whetu Tiraketene-Sullivan, continued this theme of resistance to imposed rating changes: and I quote:

“I am pleased that any thought of coercing or insisting on the Maori Land Court making charging orders over Maori freehold land to cover rate arrears was not imposed by the committee”.

Mrs Tiraketene-Sullivan made reference to Lake Rotokawau and the Ngati Rangi Te Aorere people, within my electorate, who were forced by the pressure of some local body members that those Maori owners pay rates; to take their case to the Maori Land Court to seek a special exemption and then to go on to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Our people are often forced, into unreasonable situations - co-erced into the courts - forced to file papers for judicial review - when all that may be required is recognition of the rights and roles of mana whenua.

Returning back to the North, Professor Margaret Mutu’s 1991 report “The Rating and Valuation of Maori Land in Te Taitokerau” stated that all the tribes from the area had long-standing grievances over the effects that rating and valuation have had on their ownership and occupation of their ancestral lands, their whenua tupuna.

Professor Mutu saw that the manner of levying and collecting rates was a clear breach of the Treaty, and valuation processes failed to take account of “Maori cultural and spiritual values which are an integral part of all such land”. In her opinion this only served to exacerbate the problems faced by Maori land owners still further.

These issues continue in Te Taitokerau, where for instance, unemployed Maori returning to tribal lands to make a new life only to encounter rating problems and a lack of services.

The honourable Dover Samuels, when chairman of the Far North District Council’s Maori Affairs Committee is quoted in the Northern Advocate of 21 August 1993 as saying “Maori believe that ancestral land should not be taxed”.

Perhaps one more recent example might suffice.

The Maori Party has been advised of record rating increases currently being imposed on residents in Tai Rawhiti, the East Coast. One property, currently holding a land value of $13,000.00 was revalued to $48,000.00; another property has a current land value of $13,000.00 and has been valued at $35,000.00.

Maori ratepayers who have approached our office have advised us that such an enormous rating increase is indicative of a cynical piece of land evaluation and potential rates extortion.

Mr Speaker, there is a proud history in this land of tangata whenua advising local authorities of their concerns with local government decisions, of their desire to retain management and authority over their tribal lands, and their frustration and in some cases fury at being ignored, side-lined or marginalised in the consultation process.

While there are attempts to make the Resource Management legislation work for Maori, the local government aspect, the critical relationship with mana whenua, has not been sorted out first.

It was from this context of these wide-ranging and universal concerns, that the Special Rapporteur recommended that

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

o Iwi and hapu should be considered as likely units for strengthening the customary self-governance of Maori, in conjunction with local and regional councils.

These are recommendations which respond entirely to the situation of our times, which reflect the aspirations and dreams of tangata whenua throughout Aotearoa.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi requires a more direct relationship between Local Government and Mana Whenua. There needs to be a commitment to working with Te Ao Maori and we want to encourage constructive dialogue, healthy relationships, debate - not co-ercion, or relationships built on insults or assault.

The Maori Party believes that we need to address the issue of rating Maori land within a Treaty framework. The current Bill does not go anywhere near this, and instead seeks to increase rates through introducing lump sum payments or face paying certain targeted rates.

Mr Speaker, the difficulty with a grab-bag, pick-and-mix approach to legislation like this, throwing everything together into the wash, is that there are just far too many complex and opposing initiatives to be able to consider in one sitting.

In essence, however, the Maori Party must oppose this Bill as we do not believe that there is anything in this Bill which will advance and enhance the relationships between regional/local authorities and mana whenua.

Mr Speaker, tangata whenua are watching the response of this Government to the United Nations report with great concern.

The Special Rapporteur concluded in his report that the inherent rights of Maori were not constitutionally recognized. Whether the Government reacts to that finding with a calm, considered response or a response which denies, discredits and dismisses the validity of the analysis within, will be a matter of great import for tangata whenua - and indeed for the nation as a whole.

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