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Dr Pita Sharples Speech: Whakatu Marae

Whakatu Marae

Dr Pita Sharples; Co-leader, Maori Party

Thursday 16 November 2006; 7.30am

It is always a great thrill to leave Parliament and come to where all the action is.

And Whakatu Marae is certainly where it’s all at.

I wanted to check out exactly what I was getting into when I agreed to speak here today, and so I did a little research over all the initiatives that have been coming out of this marae over the last few years.

Of course the wonderful demonstration of a successful marae environment is when the place reflects the wealth of whanau.

This marae celebrates the unique significance of mana whenua – the special role that Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia, Ngati Toa Rangatira, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa.

We know your whanau are cherished – your mokopuna are thriving in Kopuawai te Kohanga; your kaumatua are living in whare here on the marae.

And there was probably no better demonstration of this than the opening of your new wharekai, Mauriora, just over a year ago.

And the whanau are cared for, through a thriving range of health and social services.

But there are other, distinctive initiatives, which really distinguish Whakatu as special.

I understood this marae hosted a programme run by Ministry of Justice to provide a helping hand in terms of supporting a licensing programme. I was really impressed with the concept behind this scheme. So many of our people become burdened with traffic fines which arise from a lack of a drivers’ licence.

A lack of a licence which may in itself indicate other issues – low literacy levels being a key factor, as well as the cost of attaining a licence.

In looking into this programme I was really impressed to see that all the stops had been pulled – the green light flashing so to speak – with the Nelson Mail Nelsonian of the Year, Community Constable John O’Donovan, being involved in driving the programme nationwide. It’s a great initiative – something I’m looking to take home to Hoani Waititi.

Then there’s the Certificate of Maori Nautical Studies that Werohia Development held, based here at Whakatu, involving skills in boat handling, navigation, waka building alongside cultural activities.

Whakatu has literally been a centre of life-giving activities – including, the signing of a key agreement aimed at reducing suicide rates. The health promotion event spear-headed by Poumanawa Oranga initiated help-lines, whanau days and even enlisted the help of local bands to help promote the message.

Whakatu Marae was also the base for launching the Family Start programme; and I’ve even heard about the annual Christmas Day dinner wherein local iwi from the top of Te Tau Ihu, gather here at Whakatu to celebrate all your local kaumatua.

So when I came across an article which described Whakatu marae as the focal point of the Maori community in Nelson; and explained the kaupapa of this marae as manaaki nga manuhiri; aroha ki te tangata; I could absolutely believe it.

But perhaps the most significant aspect of coming here to Whakatu, is remembering and recognizing the role that the iwi at the Top of the South have in establishing the precedent for all iwi to follow in the case of the foreshore and seabed.

And so I reflect back to 1997, when Te Tau Ihu iwi applied to the Maori Land Court for a declaration that the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds is Maori customary land under Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993.

On 22 December– and indeed I am sure the Christmas Dinner at Whakatu was particularly fine that year – Maori Land Court Judge Heta Hingston found that Maori have customary rights to the Marlborough Sounds foreshore and seabed.

The Court concluded that it assumed that native title was not extinguished, and that any customary title to the foreshore and seabed had not been extinguished by statute.

The next year, the moratorium on coastal farming in the Marlborough Sounds was extended until 1999, and in 1999, the High Court dismissed a legal challenge by seven tribal trusts against Government’s decision to lift the Marlborough Sounds moratorium

Fast Forward two years later to June 2001 and the High Court rejects a Maori land claim to the Marlborough Sounds foreshore and seabed. A month later, iwi begin proceedings in the Court of Appeal, which are heard in July 2002.

And then finally, on 19 June 2003, in Ngati Apa v Attorney General the Court of Appeal decides that the Maori Land Court has jurisdiction to investigate customary title to the foreshore and seabed.

I am absolutely honoured today, to trace back over these developments, and to acknowledge the historic role played by:

Ngati Apa, Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama, Ngati Toa and Rangitane; as first appellants; and

Te Atiawa Manawhenua ki te Tau Ihu Trust as second appellants

in appealing the Attorney-General; the NZ Marine Farming Association; Port Marlborough Ltd and the Marlborough District Council; on the status of land comprised of foreshore and seabed.

It was your courage, your sheer determination that saw us arrive at the finding from the Court of Appeal that the foreshore and seabed legislation did not extinguish Maori customary rights and title.

It was your collaborative nerve; your strength in taking a stand, that led the way to a decision by the Court of Appeal that the Maori Land Court does have jurisdiction to determine the status of the foreshore and seabed.

Of course, the path of progress never runs smoothly, and only four days after the Court of Appeal’s decision, the Prime Minister and Attorney General Margaret Wilson issued a rapid fire missile that the Government would legislate to assert Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed.

And now here we are, the Maori Party, able to finally put to rest the confiscation and extinguishment policies of the last three years with our bill to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act of the Government.

What the Court of Appeal determined in their June 2003 ruling is that while some parts of the foreshore and seabed were not in Maori hands, the Crown had never passed legislation to unilaterally extinguish all Maori customary ownership in the foreshore and seabed. Their conclusion was that hapu and iwi could take cases to the Maori Land Court to verify the extent of their ownership.

This is the situation our Bill seeks to return to.

We seek to return to the outcome you, the iwi of Te Tau Ihu, won for all iwi throughout Aotearoa.

We seek to return to the ruling that iwi should at least have the right of access to Court preserved.

We know that the cards are stacked against us, that over the next few months, every Labour Maori MP with career ambitions in sight, will be trying to manipulate the media and Maori into believing their spin.

We have already seen evidence of this with various Labour Maori MPs claiming our Bill to repeal their Bill – will sell Maori short; or will be a vote for National –or like the grand plot with the proposed stadium – consulting one Maori is all you need to do – and mana whenua can be overlooked, ignored or rejected.

While we just say, whatever, Trevor.

We know that tangata whenua will never forget the way in which the decision of the Court of Appeal was so rapidly rejected by the Government.

Tangata whenua will never forget the devastation of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Tangata whenua will never forget the way in which the Prime Minister ignored the hikoi; and the way in which new concepts of confiscation – such as the invention of the Crown Stratum in the Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Act – are plucked out of thin air.

But amidst the onslaught of all these actions, I remember the words of Rewi Maniapoto as he led the defence of Ōrākau in 1864. In the face of overwhelming odds against a numerically superior British force, and despite a call to surrender, Rewi Maniapoto called:

E hoa, ka whawhai tonu mātou, Āke! Āke! Āke!

Friend, we will fight on forever, forever and forever!

You, the people of Whakatu; the iwi of Te Tau Ihu, have inspired us onwards, to know that even when the odds are against us, we must never surrender to the force of hostility.

We must hold on to the determination of the Court of Appeal, that rights to Maori customary ownership in the foreshore and seabed were never extinguished.

We must hold on to the belief that we can, if we choose, take our cases to the Maori Land Court to verify the extent of ownership.

And we must hold on to the absolute belief, that like the Maori Party, it is our utmost honour and responsibility to defend Maori rights; to advance Maori interests, for the benefit of this nation we call Aotearoa.


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