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Sharples: Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Bill

Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Bill; Third Reading

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Wednesday 2 April 2008

There’s a Maori tourist company in the electorate of Tamaki Makaurau that is picking awards up faster than the Maori Party is rising in the polls.

Potiki Adventures won the Best Maori Women in Business Award, Te Mana Wahine Tohu, last year; they took out the Outstanding Business Citizenship Award and the Best New Business Award at the national Women’s Business Awards, and Australian Vogue recently listed them as one of the top fifteen things to do in Auckland city.

The reason for their success is twofold – the breathtaking landscapes that Potiki tours take tourists to; and the pride of the two owners in sharing the beauty and the knowledge handed down from their tipuna about special locations all over Auckland.

A particularly popular tour is that through the Waitakere Ranges Rainforest, and it is easy to understand why.

The coastal belt to the west of the Waitakere Ranges, Te Wao Nui Tiriwa, exudes a rich Maori heritage. There are signs of early habitation, particularly on the islands and headlands which constitute natural defence areas.

The tour may also include an opportunity to view the unique and ancient inhabitants such as geckos, rare frogs and kereru.

Or one may wander through the mature native forest, and marvel at the majestic sight of manuka, kanuka, kahikatea, horoeka, rata, rewarewa, rimu and kauri.

The wilderness of the Waitakere Ranges Rain Forest, the exuberance of the untamed coast, the warmth of the black sand, comes together to create a unique environment which will linger long after visitors leave the park.

This unique landscape is today being protected, preserved and promoted by the mechanisms established in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Bill.

The distinctive tourist value of this area is however, only one aspect of a space that positively resonates with an appreciation of a unique cultural heritage.

We are, today taking a very important step in an investment in our future by preserving and caring for the history of past and present habitation in this environment.

We are standing up to protect the national, regional and local significance of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, on behalf of who those who call this land home.

We know just how important a step we are taking by the heat generated within the debate, by the intensity and vigour of the positions put forward on both sides of the Bill.

It was obvious to us all, that those who live in the land of the Waitakere Ranges fiercely locate themselves and the generations before them as a distinct community of interest in this Bill.

One after another, submitters traced back over their experiences of five and six generations maintaining the Waitakere foothills bush environment. It has actually been a very inspiring process, to feel the strength of the attachment that people from all walks of life have for this distinctive environment.

And in the spirit of inspiration, I want to acknowledge the strength of this process as it has evolved, in terms of soliciting active participation of mana whenua.

I want to commend Lynne Pillay, who right back in February 2006, was recognising the solid contribution and support from iwi; support which she declared was central to the success of the Bill. Kia ora Lynne.

I want to commend the local authorities – Auckland Regional Council, Waitakere City Council and Rodney District Council who have willingly endorsed the amendment I have brought to the Bill, to establish and maintain processes to provide opportunities for Ngati Whatua and Te Kawerau a Maki to contribute to the decision-making processes.

And we in the Maori Party are extremely impressed by the ways in which tangata whenua have demonstrated such fine leadership in the way in which they have worked with all players in relation to the land specified in this Bill.

The Maori Party is very proud of the progress we have been able to achieve in creating processes to ensure tangata whenua are actively involved in local decision making.

We were so pleased with the way in which the amendments to clause 23B, 24 and 28AA were received by the House, amendments which establish a mandatory, rather than a discretionary obligation on the Crown or local authority to enter into deeds of acknowledgement with tangata whenua.

The amendments place a positive duty on the respective local authorities to establish and maintain processes to provide opportunities for Ngati Whatua and Te Kawerau a Maki to contribute to the decision making processes. This is unique.

The key point about this Bill which really stands out, is not just about the nature of the collegiality and co-operation reflected in the engagement of mana whenua, of the local authorities, of the sponsor of the Bill, and indeed of the Maori Party.

A crucial outcome of this process has been the precedent that has been established in enshrining the existing rights of mana whenua as a basis for recognition.

The reaffirmation of tipuna entitlements is essential to the full expression of tino rangatiratanga. We have a whakatauaki, a proverb, from my own people, of Ngati Kahungunu, that symbolises the concept of tikanga entitlements or tipuna rights.

Kaore koe e tu mokemoke ai.

This whakatauaki speaks to me of the fact that no-one stands alone because we are born of whakapapa and live within its embrace.

And so it is that Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua came to the Select Committee, speaking of the need to protect the whenua, their waimaori and natural resouces of taonga tuku iho designated within their tribal rohe.

We heard about the Ngati Whatua tribal constructs at both Ngati Whatua o Orakei and Ngati Whatua Nga Rima o Kaipara working together with the Mayors of the three Councils to ensure the respective mandate and participatory authority that is to be maintained by whanau, marae and hapu across their takiwa.

We heard also of the perspectives of Te Uri o Hau, Ngati Rongo, Te Kawerau a Maki, Te Taumata Runanga, Te Runanga o te Taou and how the significance of their ancestral associations could be protected and preserved within this Bill.

Mr Speaker, Te Tiriti o Waitangi anticipated protection of Maori custom and cultural values. It also guaranteed the right of tangata whenua to possess and control that which is ours – tino rangatiratanga.

It was an absolute declaration about the value that the Crown saw in its relationship with Maori.

It is a matter of great joy to be speaking in this House about a model in which outcomes are anticipated which seeks to exemplify the strength of a Treaty relationship.

This Bill provides us all with a model for showing how easy it can be for local authorities to establish process to facilitate the involvement and participation of Maori in local decision-making processes.

We have been extremely pleased that our SOPs succeeded, that the voices of mana whenua were heard, that actions were agreed to which consolidate a formal relationship with tangata whenua.

We, the Maori Party, are proud to support this Bill.

ENDS

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