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Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Bill - Sharples

Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Bill

Dr Pita Sharples, Member of Parliament for Tamaki Makaurau

SOP 173#, Committee of the Whole House Debate

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Te Tiriti o Waitangi promised protection of Maori custom and cultural values. The guarantee of rangatiratanga in Article two was an investment in the rights of tangata whenua to possess and control that which is ours.

It was a strong declaration about the value that the Crown saw in its relationship with Maori.

And yet local and national legislation has consistently sought to minimise the strength of such a relationship, by making consultation an added extra, a discretionary provision available for the Crown to choose whether or not they would seek a relationship with the tangata whenua.

The Local Government Act 2002 outlines principles of consultation for local authorities. It suggests that councils must provide reasonable access to relevant information in an appropriate manner and format, and they must provide clear information about the purpose and scope of the consultation.

The Local Government Act 2002 also mandated councils to give emphasis to the participation and involvement of Maori in local authority decision-making processes.

Principles are one thing, putting them into practice is quite another.

In 2004, Local Government New Zealand and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet surveyed 86 councils, to identify the practices used by Councils in consultation Maori.

Over 90% of the authorities had established processes for informal consultation and yet the findings of the survey were revealing.

The survey concluded, and I quote, “how effective these processes were or are is not known, but the survey shows that consultation processes do exist”.

Mr Speaker, it is not good enough that processes are established – but lack evidence on whether they are actually used, and evidence that tangata whenua find them usable and appropriate.

Indeed, a recent study of Maori and local government – He Wharemoa Te Rakau, Ka Mahue – by Christine Cheyne and Veronica Tawhai, concluded that structural changes to council processes are needed to ensure tangata whenua involvement in local decision-making.

The Local Government Act 2002 also makes it clear that Treaty obligations are the Crown’s. The role of local government, is to help the Crown fulfil these Treaty obligations, by providing opportunities for active participation in local and regional governance.

The amendments, therefore, in clause 23B, 24 and 28AA seek to clarify the relationships, and to also ensure a level of specificity is adopted in order to achieve quality outcomes for all.

In essence, the amendments will ensure a mandatory, rather than discretionary, obligation on the Crown or local authority to enter into deeds of acknowledgment with tangata whenua in relation to the land within the area specified in the Bill.

• Clause 23B Identifies the tangata whenua encompassed in this Bill as Ngati Whatua and Te Kawerau a Maki.

• Clause 24 details what would be included in a Deed of Acknowledgment – a deed that will be entered into through consultation.

• Clause 28AA places a positive duty on the relevant local authorities – namely Auckland Regional Council, Waitakere City Council and Rodney District Council - to“establish and maintain processes to provide opportunities for Ngati Whatua and Te Kawerau a Maki to contribute to the decision making processes of these bodies”.

I want to particularly acknowledge Waitakere City Council, Ngati Whatua and Te Kawerau a Maki for the constructive role they have played in working through the amendments.

Our desire in bringing these amendments to the House today, is to ensure adequate and proper consultation occurs as a fundamental tenet of a healthy democracy.

We believe that if the Crown, via local authorities, is to take appropriate account of the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and to maintain and improve opportunities for Maori to contribute to local government decision-making processes, it is helpful to spell out the terms of this relationship in detail.

We believe that our amendments to clause 23B, 24 and 28AA, fill in the detail necessary to articulate the way in which the historical, traditional, cultural and spiritual relationships of tangata whenua to the heritage area can be best expressed, and we welcome the support of the House to this effect.

POSTSCRIPT - all the amendments described above in SOP 173 were passed; 61 votes for; 58 opposed.


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