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Harawira: Historic Places Amendment Bill

Historic Places Amendment Bill [Second reading]

Hone Harawira, Member of Parliament for Tai Tokerau

Wednesday 10 May 2006

When the Historic Places Bill came before this House in 1954, Duncan Rae, MP for Eden, told Parliament that “no country can afford to neglect its history”.

Such a concept resonates within every Maori heart. The call, ‘Kia ü, kia mau ki tö Maoritanga’ encourages tangata whenua to be firm in holding on to the richness of our culture - our spiritual beliefs, customs, literature, myths, legends and many other ethnographical aspects that give meaning to life.

Within this world view, tangata whenua have appreciated the enduring role of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in promoting the ‘historic places’ dimension of heritage.

For over fifty years, the Trust has protected and preserved heritage landscapes, sites and buildings, including cultural sites of significance to Maori. In those early days, we were interested to read over the contributions of Eruera Tihema Tirikatene, Southern Maori Member who served in this House from 1932 through to 1967. We have been here before.

Mr Tirikatene talked about the importance of marking and maintaining places of historic value to the Maori people - drawing on an example of the Wairau Massacre, which he referred to “as not a massacre at all…but rather an unfortunate misunderstanding”.

He challenged the Historic Places Trust to bring the history up to date, revitalising the debate to address the history known to Ngati Toa, describing the tragic death of Rongo, Rangihaeata’s daughter and Te Rauparaha’s wife. He concluded:

“No doubt it will be the Trust’s function to record all such places and their history, so that they will not be lost to future generations”.

The incentive therefore to record all such places and their history is an very important one to provide a strong foundation for our future.

In order to shape a strong future, tangata whenua have sought certainty in the development of mechanisms, both legal and policy, to protect Māori cultural heritage including matauranga Maori. This is central to who we are - and should, one would have thought, been a key piece of legislation for the Maori Members of Government to have an input into .

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party looked forward to considering the Historic Places Amendment Bill as an important means of preserving Mäori heritage projects.

We have, however, been disappointed with what we found.

There are three key areas of our concern.

1 Appointment of Board Members

The Maori Party is greatly concerned about the newly redefined requirements for Maori board members serving on the Historic Places Trust board.

Clause 19, of the Bill requires the Minister to appoint at least three board members with knowledge of te Ao Maori and tikanga Maori. This acquired ‘knowledge’ now replaces "knowledge and ethnicity" as the pre-requisite for board membership.

Mr Speaker; knowledge by itself does not necessarily bring understanding.

Similarly, ethnicity by itself also does not presume knowledge and understanding.

It is the combination of both whakapapa and wisdom that is required.

To quote Keri Hulme in that Booker Prize winning classic of literary heritage; The Bone People,

“They are nothing more than people by themselves… But all together, they had become the heart, muscles and mind of something perilous and new, something strong and growing great. Together all together, they were instruments of change.”

Instruments of change do not come through people who simply satisfy an academic requirement without knowing the cultural meaning of heritage.

It is phenomenology; it is the lived experience.

It is for this reason that we will be supporting the Green Party amendment which recommends a new section 42 for Clause 19 which specifies, ‘be Maori’.

Indeed this amendment is in line with the submissions from both the Historic Places Trust and the Maori Heritage Council. It is another tragic indictment on this Parliament that the Select Committee heard a range of submissions against this provision but did not act on the objection.

The Maori Party would suggest an even more effective means of achieving representation on the Board would have been to call for nominees mandated by hapu and iwi. That is, if Government was genuine about effective tangata whenua representation.

2 Public Notification

The second key failing in the Bill is around the notification requirements. The Bill proposes that in order to register an historic or wahi tapu area, the Trust is required to ascertain the names and address of people or owners with a registered interest.

Mr Speaker, when one considers the reality of Maori land ownership, there are often hundreds, even thousands, of owners in minute fractions. If such land was to be included in a proposal for registration it might, therefore, be impossible for both the Historic Places Trust and the relevant Council to deliver to such unworkable expectations.

However, the Maori Party objects in the strongest of terms to any suggestion as posed by the Select Committee that notice should be given only to such owners and persons whose names and places of residence are known to the Trust or Council.

Mr Speaker, this makes an absolute mockery of the democratic process, if eligibility for notification relies solely on being known. If selection processes restrict that knowledge to only those who are ‘known to the Trust or Council’ the nation cannot be assured that the sacred responsibility of protecting wahi tapu is followed.

On the basis of this reason alone, there is no way in which the Maori Party can support a Bill which stands to exclude and marginalise potentially so many of our people.

3 Authority and Power of the Historic Places Trust

A third key objection the Maori Party has with this Bill, is in relation to its inability to provide appropriate protection to wahi tapu.

We approached this Bill, asking whether the amendments would actively create positive protection mechanisms for Mäori land or water based cultural landscape and heritage.

As this House will be aware, there have been numerous reports and reviews which set out major concerns for adequate protection mechanisms for Mäori cultural heritage or landscape. Namely the

o Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Report 1995 on Mäori heritage;

o the Department of Conservation Historic Heritage Management Review 1996; and

o the more recent Heritage Think Tank 2003.

Due to the fact that iwi and hapu have not felt confident that the Trust can provide positive protection, they have instead resorted to their own internally or externally funded initiatives on tribal lands. Iwi and hapu have wanted to ensure that cultural and natural landscapes are maintained for future generations.

As guardians and custodians of the whenua, of nga tangata, nga taonga; we feel a duty of responsibility and obligation to preserve our historic heritage for our future descendants.

Mr Speaker, in essence the Bill has no teeth.

It is of the utmost importance that Maori customary and cultural heritage values be protected and preserved for those who will follow us.

I think back to the decision from the Environment Court in 2004 that a four lane highway could be built over an ancient burial ground, adajacent to Takamore Urupa - not that far from here.

What did this mean? That the direct descendants of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, Te Puni Kookopu of Te Ati Awa and Ngati Mutunga o Waikanae were about to have their sacred groups desecrated? Did the Environment Court really believe those people whose descendants lay in Takamore urupa would allow a highway to be built over their wahi tapu, carved waka, their buried whare.

The Historic Places Trust stepped in to support the Takamore trustees, lodged its own appeal, and it all turned to nought. All appeals were dismissed, the kuia and kaumatua told to go home.

Our belief is that we must strengthen the protective powers of the Historic Places Trust and the Maori Heritage Council- not diminish them; and the Bill does nothing to advance this.

Tangata whenua are already taking responsibility for their land and water based cultural heritage as responsible and obligated guardians for areas within tribal land and particularly for wähi tapu.

The Maori Party recognises the significance of these practices in safeguarding taonga of heritage values, and we commend the long-term vision of the people in establishing a pathway forward.

We refer to a whakatauki, E kore e hekeheke, he käkano rangatira: the noble heritage will not perish.

The Maori Party is not able to support this Bill - but we will continue to support all those brave efforts by tangata whenua to make historic heritage protection a matter of such importance.

ENDS

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