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Harawira - Speech On Dog Microchipping


Local Government Law Reform Bill Third Reading - 22 June 2006 Hone Harawira, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau

2006 will forever be remembered as the Year that Parliament was hounded by politicians prattling on about their pets.

We've had Tau Henare's mongrel, Jacqui Dean's Jack Russell, Metiria Turei's Grandma's poodle and United First's lap dog. We've heard Labour howling on about their 'one law for all dogs', National chasing votes on this issue like a bitch on heat, and then of course we are graced intermittently by the presence of NZ First's very own poodle.

Well, according to Chinese Astrology, 2006 is also the Year of the Dog. They reckon that people born in the Year of the Dog can be a little selfish, kind of eccentric, and very bloody stubborn; and the insane debate of the last few months, suggests that these traits are particularly true of many of the politicians in this House.

And yet, through all of that insanity, we had the cool, calm voice of the Maori Party reminding the House of the historical insanity of this law, harking back to the imposition of the dog tax in Hokianga, and warning of the perils of dog-whistling, pitching a political message to a group of voters that other voters can't hear.

We know too that some of those who were proposing micro-chipping of dogs had no idea at all about the reality of farming communities, or even the expectation on local authorities to handle this.

I do though. I asked a mate of mine who used to be a dog ranger about policing this, and he said it would be a lot to put on someone to monitor the micro-chipping laws, and that in a lot of places they would simply ignore it unless they had a squad of cops alongside them. So I asked one of the cops up North about their support for the bill, and while he said they would help out if they had to, he asked whether or not that's really what Parliament wanted policemen to be doing when things were already stretched.

Parliament received a petition of 6,000 signatures from Waikato calling for an exemption for working dogs, we took heed of Kennel Club President Lesley Chalmers, who said that it wasn't dangerous dogs that people should be concerned about but dangerous owners, and we also noted the increase in costs for local bodies, and the extra taxes on dog owners.

We note all of this, because anybody with half a brain knows that micro-chipping dogs won't stop dog attacks, and in fact the Maori Party has been very clear that the most, not the only, but the most effective way to control dangerous and menacing dogs is by muzzling them - not waiting for an attack to occur and hoping the scanner will find the bad dog later. People with menacing dogs who don't control them won't bother, and responsible people with potentially dangerous dogs will get lazy, thinking the microchip will do the work, when in fact it's education of the owners and control of the dogs that are the key to the solution.

So we were happy to support David Carter's amendment exempting farm dogs, and on behalf of the Maori Party, I congratulate Federated Farmers, National and the Greens also for supporting the vote.

The Green Party's split vote - as we have done ourselves in the Maori Party - shows the unique diversity that is possible in parties that are brave enough to welcome and embrace open and free debate. I listened carefully to Jeanette Fitzsimons comments last night, and was glad to hear her speak proudly of the respect the Greens have for different points of view. Would that the rest of parliament could be so bold, for that is the sort of open thinking this Parliament needs.

And yet, while micro-chipping dominated the debate, there were also a number of other matters in this Bill of real interest to the Maori Party, which were almost drowned in the saliva of the Great Dog Debate of 2006.

The amendment to the 2002 Rating Act for example so local bodies could sting ratepayers for more money for capital projects. The Select Committee suggested the "lump sum contributions" not be called rates, but taking more money from ratepayers and not calling it rates, is kinda like taking more Maori land under the Public Works Act and not calling it theft. It's a Claytons - the rates increase you get when you're not paying more rates.

Land rates have been the curse of Maoridom since they were first illegally used back in the 1800s for the express purpose of getting Maori into debt and forcing them off their lands.

And as Shane Jones' relation, Professor Margaret Mutu pointed out in The Rating and Valuation of Maori Land in Te Tai Tokerau in 1991, the impact on the well-being of the tribe, through long-standing grievances stemming from the rating and valuation of their ancestral lands, has been substantial.

Indeed, the Maori Party would welcome a review of the Land Valuation Act of 1957, because it appears that Maori land that can never be sold (such as Waitangi) is still valued the same as all coastal property, which means the value goes up, and the rates go up, faster than the Maori owners can keep up, and before you know it, the lands gone up - for sale to pay the rates. And although Councils can give rebates, most of them don't.

Then last night when the issue of Maori constituencies came up, I had to sit through the contributions of whole lot of people telling me how bad I feel having Maori seats in Council, how demeaning it is for me to have Maori seats in Parliament, how humiliating it is for Maori to have their rights protected under law. I can just see the Tui Ad now - Hey bro' isn't it cool that they stole our Foreshore and Seabed - Yeah right !! I support Maori constituencies not because I believe in a process whereby Councils can act like God - giving seats and taking them away, but because for Maori to grow they need to experience governance at every level of society.

My own personal view though is that Maori should simply stop paying rates to Councils, pay them to iwi, and make Councils negotiate with iwi for them. That way our contribution is maintained, but our desires are being genuinely met as well.

Mr Speaker, I agree with the comments from some of the National party speakers who said "Maori don't want tokenism". We don't. But we don't want anybody else telling us what we want either. Hello ... try asking us. Maori have a voice. We even have a voice in Parliament. It's called the Maori Party.

This House will recall that earlier this year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur recommended that Te Tiriti o Waitangi be entrenched in the constitution; and the MMP electoral system be entrenched to guarantee adequate representation of Maori in parliament and in regional and local bodies.

Mr Speaker, this nation continues to grow, but it will never flourish until we recognise the validity of the Treaty, and the status of Maori as tangata whenua.

The Treaty is a contract to be honoured in the deed, not just in the spirit, and it should not be a simple whim to be renegotiated to suit the political colours of the day. And for Maori, it will ever be our right to be so; to know and to live as Tangata Whenua.

Mr Speaker, we are delighted that farm dogs have now been exempted from microchipping, but fundamental flaws remain in this Bill, and in the interests of highlighting the need for improving relationships between Maori and local council authorities, and enhancing the rights of Maori to full recognition as Treaty partners in Aotearoa, we can not on balance, support this Bill in its entirety.

Kia ora koutou katoa


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