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Dr Pita Sharples - Maori Purposes Bill

Maori Purposes Bill:
Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party
Thursday 13 December 2007; 5.30pm

As has been noted before, this Bill is an omnibus Bill amending four Acts -

o the Maniapoto Maori Trust Board Act 1988;
• the Maori Trust Boards Act 1955;
• Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975; and
o Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993.

In considering these I thought of some words of my ancestors –

I thought of the advice, He kai kei te hara a te kaki.

A literal reference to food that causes the throat to sin – an allusion to the sin of over-indulgence.

Gluttony is a fault which is severely criticized amongst Maoridom – and Madam Speaker, gluttony is the fault we level at this Maori Purposes Bill.

The only consolation that we can offer the House is the fact that the excesses of this Bill today are at least somewhat restrained by the fact that the amendments to the Maori Trustee Act 1953 will be considered at a later stage.

And we want to place on record, our appreciation that the Minister of Maori Affairs did listen to our concerns about the over-crowding of Bills which seem to have come before this House.

We will never understand the logic of squashing a whole heap of different legislative items together for the sake of getting them through the House.

We are pleased that the very significant proposals being put up around creating the Maori Trustee as a stand-alone organisation have been deferred for another day, Parekura, kia ora.

But getting back to the feast that is being debated today – a Bill which we will digest in its four separate parts.

Maori Trust Boards Act

The chameleon actions of this Government towards the age of youth never cease to astound us.

On one hand, the Minimum Wage (Age Discrimination) Bill – creates a situation by which 16 and 17 year olds are only entitled to 80% of the adult wage; and then in this Bill, they are looking to promote a minimum voting age of eighteen years.

The amendments to the Maori Trust Boards Act addresses yet another peculiarity around age – this time the fact that the current minimum voting age under the Act is twenty years.

The thing is, that the Maori Trust Boards who come within the jurisdiction of this Bill are mandated iwi organisations subject to the Maori Fisheries Act 2004 – in which the minimum voting age is eighteen years.

Madam Speaker, this is not the first - and it is bound not to be the last - piece of legislation in which the merry-go-round of eligibility ages for youth is creating havoc for legislators.

We would suggest that a useful outcome of this specific issue in the Maori Purposes Bill to validate the voting age as eighteen, might be to consider a broader item of legislation which addresses the uncertainty around consistency with matters of age.

Another aspect of the amendments to the Maori Trust Boards Act is the amendment to give effect to the recent agreement made between Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board and the Crown to repeal annuity and revenue sharing arrangements, in place of an annual lump sump payment.

This aspect of the Bill, of course, has a fascinating whakapapa, dating back some eighty years to 1927 when the Crown legislated to vest title to Lake Taupo, the Waikato River (up to and including the Huka Falls) and most of the rivers flowing into Lake Taupo, in itself.

It was only fifteen years ago in 1992, following years of negotiation, that the Crown agreed to return title to the Trust Board as trustee for its beneficiaries.

The passage of the last decade and more has seen the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board involved in complex negotiations towards securing title in respect of the lakebed and the bed of the Waikato River to the Huka Falls. Having secured title, the Board negotiated with the Crown to grant licenses and concessions for commercial purposes – and to charge for these.

This series of negotiations, contained in a Deed signed on the tenth of September 2007, has freed up Tuwharetoa to negotiate with local government in the management of the Lake as a taonga of Ngati Tuwharetoa.

This Bill, therefore, comes at the end of some eighty years of perseverance and commitment from Tuwharetoa, to give effect to that September agreement to repeal annuity and revenue sharing arrangements, in place of an annual payment to the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board.

We support the opportunity for Tuwharetoa to proceed in this regard – but we must place on record, the ongoing issues that remain to be dealt with regarding the anomaly to do with water.

That is, that Tuwharetoa has rights over the space above the water, but not the water itself. And to use a word that has been used in this chamber today, isn’t this a Clayton’s concept if ever this was one?

Maniapoto Maori Trust Board

The amendment related to Maniapoto is a significant – but safe – set of proposals around naming and representation rights.

The Bill will change the name of Maniapoto Council of Elders from“Te Mauri o Maniapoto” to “Te Kaumatua Kaunihera o Maniapoto”. Both the Council and the Trust Board agree that the new name better reflects nature of the Council – and given their obvious unity, we will of course support this proposal which reflects their interests.

The Bill also amends Maori Trust Boards Regulations 1985 to enable the newNga Tai o Kawhia Regional Management Committee for Kawhia Harbour region to have representation on the Maniapoto Maori Trust Board.

Another amendment which we as the Maori Party – the proud and independent Maori voice in Parliament - will of course support to ensure that all Maniapoto-affiliated marae are represented both by a Regional Management Committee and by a representative on the Trust Board.

Te Ture Whenua Maori Act

The Maori Purposes Bill 2007 also introduces two amendments to Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993; one to remove an incorrect reference to section 227 in section 40 subsection 2 – and another one, of all things, to correct the spelling of incorporation.

Now I may be out of order here – but really – how can it take fourteen years for someone to realise that incorporation is spelt with two ‘i’s and not one!

Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975

The last course in the hakari laid out for the Maori Purposes Bill will be to increase the statutory cap on the membership of the Waitangi Tribunal from sixteen to twenty.

This move, to enhance the membership, is in response to an anticipated increase in their workload – as a result of the rushing forward of a closing date for the submission of historical treaty claims in 2008.

This is a very significant amendment, and one which we wholeheartedly support – any proposal to assist iwi in having their claims heard before the Tribunal is of course to be supported.

Indeed, this was a proposal that we first announced on 9 May 2007, in our release, calling for More Resourcing for the Waitangi Tribunal.

We have constantly sought support for the enhancement of the role of the Waitangi Tribunal so they can deal with claims more speedily.

The Tribunal needs to be resourced sufficiently so it can work full-time, and we are hopeful that increasing the statutory cap on the membership of the Waitangi Tribunal will be a step in the right direction, and perhaps lead also to the opportunity to review more widely regarding functions and funding.

We do note, however, that setting deadlines for historical claims won’t actually do anything to bring the process to an end – and that just as the amendments to specify a voting age of eighteen brings up far broader issues around entitlement; no-one in this House can ignore the wider context around the Treaty Settlement process.

Improving the settlement process from a Maori perspective will ensure that the claims will be settled earlier; be settled fairly and that there is a broad consensus for the process and therefore greater commitment to settlement resolution.

But this Bill doesn’t achieve this progress that we so desperately need – but it does establish a starting point for at least the conversation to occur.

Madam Speaker, we will support the Bill through to select committee to ensure that the conversation is given space to take place.


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