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Sharples: Alfred Cox Park Validation Bill

Gisborne District Council (Alfred Cox Park) Validation Bill

Dr Pita Sharples; Co-leader, Maori Party

Wednesday 14 June 2006

Anyone in the know will tell you it’s all happening at Alfred Cox Park.

Top of the list is the international half-pipe, vertical ramp that will leave any young skateboarder breathless.

If you go down there any day, you’re likely to end up running into young Luka Peta - who’s been entered into the Guiness Book of World Records’ as the world’s youngest skateboarder - and who, can reputedly drop in (skate down) off everything in the skate park.

Early Saturday morning the place is a buzz - the flea market swarming with all types of produce and people, a vibrant diversity evident in the gourmet delicacies and cosmopolitan cultures - and the very best of organic vegetables.

Inside the park is a majestic Canadian totem pole, which was gifted to the people of New Zealand in 1969, by the Canadian Government on the occasion of the bicentenary of the landing of Captain James Cook at Kaiti Beach in 1769.

If it’s autumn, the park is described in its promotional material as likely to be resplendent with bountiful olive trees.

It’s a great place to sit and wonder how it was that Alfred Cox, a member of the mysteriously named 30,000 club, came to donate this land to the Gisborne Borough Council in 1944.

The 30000 club is apparently the same club that commissioned and gifted the iconic bronze statue of Pania of the Reef that hit the news for all the wrong reasons late last year.

I enjoyed reading over the Hansard transcripts when this Bill came to its first reading. The Honourable Maurice Williamson, summed it all up with his innocent question: What would Alfred Cox actually think about this park and the fact that we now are validating the illegal activities that go on there?

And it is that question that I want to explore further.

For the illegal activities that are being validated here today extend far beyond the constraints of the Reserves Act 1977 and the Deed of Trust under which the Park was originally gifted.

How could it be that this Parliament could let this Bill go so far without consultation and involvement of mana whenua, Rongowhakaata?

How could it be that when Labour MP Janet Mackay spoke at the First Reading of this Bill she fudged its significance and dared to label it ‘non-controversial’?

Is it non-controversial to take tupuna land from the people under the Public Works Act?

Is it non-controversial to presume that the Rongowhakaata land was idle land, and there would be no great shame in using it as a dumping ground for the town’s rubbish?

Is it non-controversial that Council records show that dumping of rubbish began one morning at 8.30am - ninety minutes before the matter was taken to a Council meeting to receive the token rubber stamp?

Aue te mamae, te pouri nui. Kei te heke tonu nga roimata.

There are other histories, other stories, other tears yet to be shed about what’s happening at Alfred Cox Park. There are memories to be shared of the uses of the Waikanae Stream, prior to Alfred Cox Park. Evidence about the fish life, the bird life, the impact of tidal changes.

In the debate at the first reading, Labour Member Georgina Beyer congratulated Janet Mackey, saying,

“this is the kind of thing whereby politicians should listen to what local people desire, aspire, and wish to have in their communities”.

Beautiful words. Pity they hadn’t been taken seriously.

Where are the views of Rongowhakaata? The submissions from Rongowhakaata Trust?

It may well be that Rongowhakaata can accept the designation of their tupuna land, to that of Mr Alfred Cox.

Indeed, some korero that we have heard relays the mamae, the pain, of whanau who don’t want the pride of their memory to be scarred with the association of the dumped rubbish.

While other members of whanau want their tribal histories acclaimed, to assert the place names of significance within their whakapapa.

It is the birth right of Rongowhakaata to hold these debates, to discuss the merits of redesignating place names that hold meaning.

As the original landowners, Rongowhakaata have a history and an understanding of this area which predates 1944. In the days prior to the 30,000 club. The time before a mini golf course, or a visitor information centre were erected on the site.

No doubt it is a history which the borough of Gisborne is not fully familiar with. It is probably also a history which does not feature in the promotional paraphernalia of Tourism Eastland.

The Maori Party would love to be able to know more of this history, to have our hearts and minds stretched by the tales that may be shared with the nation by the mana whenua.

In itself - it’s not the concept of visitor information or flea markets that have caused us such consternation. Indeed, as my colleague Hone Harawira has said, flea markets are a fabulous site to hold constituency clinics - and indeed one of my favourite weekend visits is to drop in to the Manurewa flea market.

We in the Maori Party want to be with the people, walk with the people, in order to ever represent the people in this place and time.

If the local politicians had listened to what the local mana whenua desired, aspired, and wished to have in their communities, then the Bills put forward by Janet Mackey and Anne Tolley would have looked vastly different.

Until last night, the Rongowhakaata Trust, according to our sources, had not, as yet, received a written briefing, a paper, a report describing this Validation Bill.

It beggars belief. But then again it has a familiar ring to it.

If I was to dwell further through Hansard records, I would no doubt be able to locate the Native Land (Validation of Titles) Act of 1893 which Moana Jackson has described as validation the acquisition of all unlawfully acquired Maori Land.

113 years later, this Bill is another attempt to validate the acquisition of land acquired from Rongowhakaata for purposes other than that which the Bill describes. Mr Speaker, this Bill is controversial. It is offensive. It is culturally arrogant. It is culturally arrogant. It is culturally arrogant.

While the totem pole of Canada stands proudly as a feature of Alfred Cox Park, we in the Maori Party are looking for the carved pou of Rongowhakaata. The taonga which distinguish the mana whenua. The unique treasures that are the landmarks of their rohe.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party looks forward to have the opportunity to support this Bill in its third reading should we hear that satisfactory consultation has taken place with Rongowhakaata.

ENDS

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