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Te Ururoa Flavell: Motion No 3

Government Notice of Motion no 3 (Appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) and Motion no 4 (Appointment of the Police Complaints Authority)

Te Ururoa Flavell: Motion No 3

Wednesday 6 December 2006

I rise today, to talk to Notice of Motion 3 and 4, driven by the consistent call of Maori that we, the Maori Party, identify, track and articulate the markings of progress in this Parliament.

It is a call that this Parliament has borne witness to over the centuries. Indeed, at the turning of the centennial in 1940, the MP for Stratford stood in this House and declared it an opportunity to celebrate one hundred years of progress in this wonderful Dominion, one which has never been outshone in any other country, indeed a real Pacific haven away from the troubles of an older world.

Well that the prevailing view until Sir Apirana Ngata got up and shared his view of the evidence of Maori progress, and I quote:

“I do not know any year the Maori people have approached with so much misgiving as this Centennial Year. In retrospect, what does the Maori see? Lands gone, the power of chiefs humbled in the dust, Maori culture scattered and broken”.

Mr Speaker, as we move towards the bicentennial in 2040, now is the opportunity to really focus on whether genuine progress for Aotearoa includes Maori within its frame.

And the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment may be one important step in achieving that progress.

I stand today, to acknowledge the outstanding contribution that Dr Morgan Williams has made to this nation, in his role as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

He has valued the importance of integrity, of independent opinion, of transformation.

In fulfilling his functions as guardian, as advocate, as auditor, as information provider, as advisor; he has taken seriously the need to focus, absolutely, on the progress we are achieving in meeting our responsibilities to care and nurture the environment.

In this, tangata whenua, have greatly valued the vision we share with Dr Williams of planning for the land we want our children to inherit.

Tangata whenua believe that if we care for, nurture and respect the environment, if we collectively take responsibility for Aotearoa, then our natural resources will be healthy, safe and intact for everyone.

And so in this light, the work that Dr Williams has lead in developing the Genuine Progress Indicator has been welcomed by the Maori Party.

We appreciate the way in the Genuine Progress Indicator inserts the economic contributions of household and volunteer work as adding on to one side of the ledger, but subtracts other factors such as crime, pollution, and racism on the other.

We believe this Index can provide us with a far more comprehensive measure of wellness than conventional indicators.

And this will be the context in which this House welcomes Dr Janice Claire Wright as the new Parliamentary Commissioner.

Dr Wright is charged with the honour and the serious responsibility of assessing the impact that humanity has had on the Earth's ability to sustain life.

Tangata whenua attribute huge value to such a role. As whanau, hapu and iwi, we consider our responsibilities as tangata tiaki require that we take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the well-being and future good health of the environment.

And so in this light, the Maori Party is delighted with the appointment of Dr Wright, a person who describes her skills as including the capacity to be an inspiring leader who sets the pace for change; and someone who is politically astute and able to work at all levels of government.

We will be contacting her, to bring her up to speed with a proposal we have tabled in this House, for an urgent cross-party parliamentary commission to look at reducing government, personal and business dependence on oil. An urgent Commission indicates that we are taking the oil crisis seriously, and we will work together as a nation in a collaborative approach to set up a timeline for action. Now that would be progress.

Mr Speaker, the other appointment that is announced today, is the recommendation for Honourable Justice Lowell Goddard to be appointed as the Police Complaints Authority, a notable first for this High Court Judge.

Not that Honourable Justice Goddard is unused to be first. She is, after all, along with Chief Justice, the right Honourable Dame Sian Elias, the first woman to be appointed Queens Counsel, and the first Maori woman appointed as a Justice of the High Court.

We, the Maori Party, warmly congratulate her on this auspicious appointment.

And we also want to take this opportunity, with our eyes firmly focused on Genuine Progress, to share some of our thoughts around the proper functioning and management of the Police Complaints Authority.

The Maori Party has been disappointed that this Parliament failed, in 2000, to take up the recommendation from Sir Rodney Gallen, that theauthorityshould no longer be a Crown entity but be an Officer of Parliament, with the independence of the Ombudsman.

The notion of independence has been a concept that Maori have raised concerns, consistently, over the last decade. The report‘Maori Perceptions of Police, reports a strong perception from Maori that, and I quote:

“thePolice Complaints Authority would be self-protecting and biased in favour of the police should Māori bring a complaint against the institution or individuals within it”.

The report describe the views of Maori participants that they felt that there was little point in complaining about these practices as they did not see the Police Complaints Authority as independent from the police. Indeed, a frequently expressed perception was that simply ‘being Maori’ was a sufficient cause for suspicion by the Police.

Maori Perceptions of Police recommended that another process for hearing Māori grievances should be undertaken immediately.

It is a process which Sir Rodney Gallen recognised, in his suggestion that there should be provision for a Maori member to be appointed to the Board. A recommendation which the Government of the day neglected to implement.

We cannot bury our head in the sand, to the very real concerns of bias, which have been presented by whanau, hapu and iwi in the context of the nature of an authority to address complaints by Maori against the police.

So in the interests of being helpful, M…………Speaker, the Maori Party comes forward in speaking to this Notice of Motion, with two particular proposal for the consideration of Honourable Justice Goddard.

The first proposal is the restructuring of a Police Complaints Authority as a truly independent body, resourced to undertake both substantive investigations as well as its current policy enquiries.

The heart of the problem has been that the Police Complaints Authority relied a bit too much on police officers for its investigatory capacity, and suspicion about police investigating complaints about their colleagues lingered.

The previous Minister of Justice, Hon Phil Goff, when releasing the Review of the Police Complaints Authority, confirmed this, when he said:

"There is a strong public view that police investigation of complaints against themselves is neither independent or appropriate" and that "It is critical that there is full public confidence that such investigations are independent."

Although the Independent Police Complaints Authority Amendment Bill was passed, in recognition of the need for an impartial and independent watchdog on policing matters, it would be fair to say that in some communities, there is still considerable question raised.

The second suggestion we bring, is to consider the establishment of an autonomous Maori investigative branch as part of the new Police Complaints authority to review Maori complaints against, and Maori relationships with, the Police.

Mr Speaker, the ongoing interest of the public to have decisions of the authority reviewed; the consistent questions around impartiality and the drive for autonomy, are all vital issues that require further discussion.

We welcome the Honourable Justice Goddard to this very stimulating area of policy discussion, and we the Maori Party, are looking forward to joining both with her and Dr Wright, in working together in the pursuit of Genuine Progress for Aotearoa.

Ends


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