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Flavell: Maori Purposes Bill; Second reading

Maori Purposes Bill; Second reading
Te Ururoa Flavell; Treaty Spokesperson, Maori Party
Tuesday 5 December 2006

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is not about to buy into the culture of silence that appears to have strangled some members of Government. We will speak in this House about the things that matter and Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a pretty good place to start we think.

So what have we here?

For starters, we have a Bill that amends the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975.

The Bill before the House proposes the imposition of a closing date of 1 September 2008 for new historical Treaty claims to be submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal.

That’s it. End of story. No more claims can be submitted after that date.

The Bill also provides a new definition of a historical Treaty claim to take in claims relating to events occurring before 21 September 1992.

For the first time in our history, the Bill is inserting into legislation a definition of an ‘historical claim’. Up until this point, there has not been a formal distinction between historical and contemporary claims. This Bill makes the change.

Twenty years ago in 1986, Cabinet agreed that in the area of policy development and legislation, Maori should be consulted on all significant matters affecting how the Treaty was applied.

A year later, in the ground-breaking case of NZ Maori Council vs Attorney General, the Lands Case, the Court of Appeal characterized the Treaty relationship as a special partnership; reflected in four fundamental principles:

- Fiduciary duty – the Crown has a duty to actively protect Maori interests;
- Full spirit of co-operation: where there are Treaty implications, the responsibility for the Crown to make informed decisions will require consultation
- The honour of the Crown: the Treaty is a positive force in the life of the nation; and thus the Government;
- Fair and Reasonable redress.

As a result of this case, Parliament took action to improve statutory protection of Maori interests.

And then here we are today.

Let’s be clear, eighteen of the twenty submissions received were concerned with the imposition of a closing date. They urged the Government to consult adequately with Maori regarding the reasonableness and appropriateness of the cut off date of 1 September 2008.

The Dunedin Community Law Centre and Ngai Tahu Maori Law Centre argued that good government demands more than doing what is popular. It demands that action be taken to address the valid claims of hapu and iwi who were wronged by the Crown. This cannot be done without a fair and impartial process.

The Human Rights Foundation argued that a process of dialogue should be initiated with the aim of securing broad Maori agreement with the provisions in the Bill, particularly those relating to the deadline for lodging historical treaty claims.

The Treaty Tribes’ Coalition noted concerns that the bill will undermine the settlements process.

It seems that these groups know the Cabinet guidelines, the Court findings, the statutory responsibilities, better than the Crown?

Mr Speaker, as at 30 April 2006, 1315 claims had been lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal. By anyone’s estimates that is a significant volume of claims.
The down side is that we have no idea really about the number of claims that could possibly come through the door. And worse still, more grievance could be created by this whole process anyway where there are cross claims for example.

What is the evidence from consultation to justify that one side of the Treaty signatories, the Crown, can unilaterally impose a cut-off point, a deadline, a point of no-return – and say that is fair? This sort of attitude reminds of the settlements process we currently suffer.

Mr Speaker, one of the great ironies of this Government is the way in which treaty claims are frequently described as contributing to the process of reconciliation.

The Office of Treaty Settlement’s guide to Treaty claims and negotiations with the Crown is titled, Ka tika ä muri, ka tika ä mua: healing the past, building a future.

The Waitangi Tribunal website, puts the case even more forcefully, stating: “ the Waitangi Tribunal inquiry process contributes to the resolution of Treaty claims and, in that way, to the reconciliation of outstanding issues between Māori and Pākehā”.

And yet here, in this Maori Purposes Bill, issues of such national significance for all New Zealanders, issues which are central to the reconciliation and healing required in the relationship between Maori and Pakeha; are imposed, contrary to all Treaty principles of partnership, participation, and informed decision-making through effective consultation.

On the up side I suppose, there are one or two positive aspects to the Bill which are there to spice up the lousy parts.

The Maori Party supports the increase in the number of Maori Land Court judges from eight to fourteen.

In the interests of efficiency, we also support the delegation by the Chief Judge to the Deputy Chief Judge in order to deal with an increase in expected future caseloads.

But this does not change our fundamental concerns about the Crowns imposed ultimatum, without the prior discussion and agreement with Maori parties to the Treaty.

And we remain extremely concerned about the failure of any funding to be allocated to enhance the process. It is a matter of much significance, that neither the Waitangi Tribunal or claimant groups are being given the necessary support to assist in the process of helping claimants to formulate their claims before the 1 September 2008 deadline.

Te Runanga o Te Rarawa reminded Parliament in their submission, of the recommendation from the UN Special Rapporteur, that the Tribunal must be, and I quote:

“allocated more resources to enable to it to carry out its work more efficiently and complete its enquiries within a foreseeable timeframe”.


The other group of concerns that are located in this Bill are to do with the way in which the proposed changes will impact on the Maori Fisheries Act and aquaculture policy.

The Maori Fisheries Act will be amended to enact revised numbers of quota shares in respect of seven different stocks.

The Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act is amended with the effect that potentially the amount of aquaculture space allocated to iwi is decreased.

The changes are given scarce detail and little explanation. In fact, the New Zealand Maori Council is so concerned at the impact of these changes, that it submits that the Bill, and I quote:

“undermines the spirit and intentions of the 1992 Fisheries Claims Settlement and is another attempt at eroding Maori fisheries rights by making technical adjustments here and there”.


Mr Speaker, I read a paper by Bell Gully senior Associate, Damian Stone, who described the Maori Purposes Bill as “the most significant legislation affecting Maori to be introduced into the House in the current Parliamentary term”.

Mr Stone went further, to suggest that the changes inherent in this Bill are arguably, the most significant change to the Treaty of Waitangi Act since the Tribunal’s jurisdiction was extended in 1985 to provide it with the capacity to inquire into historical claims dating back to 1840.

If Mr Stone is right, and we have every reason to believe so, then how can the Crown adopt all the finesse of a bulldozer in forcing through such momentous changes?

The Maori Purposes Bill not only walks right over the interests of Maori, but it also serves to constrain and limit the rights of participation of future generations in the Treaty claims process.

Mr Speaker, in a process of reconciliation, of healing the past to build a future, surely past wrongs must be addressed alongside a commitment to ensure that no fresh grievances are created. The unilateral imposition of a time limit, a consultation process that saw twenty submissions being received and only eight heard; are not signs of a commitment to a mutually healthy future.

The Maori Party believes in the ideals espoused by the New Zealand Maori Council, that a framework for the resolution of Treaty Claims will reflect integrity, honesty, durability and good faith between Crown and Maori.

The Maori Party will oppose this Bill. It is our view that like all Treaty settlements to date this is another example of the continuing breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi by the Crown.


ENDS

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