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Cullen: Ngati Porou Deed of Agreement signing

Michael Cullen

31 October, 2008
Address at Ngati Porou Deed of Agreement signing ceremony

Speech notes prepared ahead of delivery at Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā tātou katoa.

On behalf of the Crown I welcome you all to Parliament, especially those who have travelled all the way from the East Coast.

This agreement, we can all agree, is worth that journey.

I am delighted to be here with my colleagues to sign this Deed of Agreement with ngā hapū o Ngāti Porou.

This Deed of Agreement is the first agreement reached that recognises the longstanding customary rights of hapū over the foreshore and seabed in their rohe.

It recognises the exercise of the mana of the hapu over the foreshore and seabed.

It is, for that reason alone, a major achievement by both the 48 hapū of Ngāti Porou that have ratified the content of the Deed and the Crown.

This achievement is also significant because we have both defied the sceptics amongst us.

After the difficult and at times heated debate about the foreshore and seabed in 2004 not many believed that we would achieve an agreement and that, following the passage of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, our positions could ever be reconciled.

But from the beginning both sides approached this issue with goodwill and patience. Ngāti Porou sought to discuss their concerns about their longstanding customary rights as soon as that debate began.

The government recognised that there was an issue that needed to be resolved.

Our first step was to incorporate provisions within the foreshore and seabed legislation that would give Māori the opportunity to have longstanding rights recognised.

These provisions provided the framework within which this agreement was negotiated. Members of Ngāti Porou took one of the two options provided in the legislation and decided to talk directly to government.

This agreement is the culmination of those talks.

What have we achieved together?

This agreement provides recognition by the Crown of the unbroken and enduring mana of ngā hapū o Ngāti Porou over the foreshore and seabed in their rohe.

It backs this recognition up with a series of instruments and mechanisms that give this recognition real force.

It makes sure the importance of the foreshore and seabed in the rohe of each hapū that has signed this agreement is recorded in the statutory documents that govern planning and development in your region.

The agreement gives you the opportunity to put forward your views on the management of the environment in your rohe and have them given due regard by the Gisborne District Council.

It provides mechanisms for the management of fishing, for conservation issues and the protection of wāhi tapu and customary rights.

It establishes and formalises relationships with Ministers of the Crown and their agencies with the aim of facilitating the smooth implemention and operation of this agreement.

It gives you the chance to place pouwhenua. You have also chosen place names to be changed to reflect your connection with those places.

Together these instruments and mechanisms are a powerful package that allow ngā hapū o Ngāti Porou to play a major role in the management and protection of the foreshore and seabed througout your rohe.

In the seven areas in this agreement where it is recognised that your customary rights have been exercised without substantial interruption ngā hapū o Ngāti Porou will have additonal level of protection and authority.

This includes the right to refuse permission for activity that may have a significant adverse effect on the relationship of the relevant hapū with the environment. It also includes the management of customary fishing and greater involvement in environmental and conservation matters.

There are still areas in which we have agreed to disagree, but I think the ratification of this agreement by the members of ngā hapū o Ngāti Porou reflects your view that the overall agreement represents a major advance on what was there before.

Legislation recognising this package was introduced into Parliament on Monday 29 September.

Our next steps are the High Court process to ensure we have accurately identified the territorial customary rights areas and the passage of the legislation.

Finally, let me say thank you to those who have represented you throughout the discussions we have held since 2004, in particular the Chair of Te Runangā o Ngāti Porou, Dr Apirana Mahuika.

His determination on your behalf has not provided either me or my officials with an easy passage.

At each step of the process our assumptions and our positions have been challenged and we have made challenges of our own in return.

Committed and strong debate was the only way in which we could reach an agreement that would be both acceptable and durable.

Your leadership entered into this process with great enthusiasm and a determination to uphold your rights.

It is a tribute to the skills of people like Dr Mahuika and their regular communication on progress that the consensus for ratification was so solid.

This was confirmation that throughout this process your leadership rested on the support of your people.

Our challenge now is to implement this agreement.

I am very confident that we have enough goodwill and enthusiasm on both sides to ensure that we can do so.

Now turning to the officials here today, I would also like to thank you for your work too. Your efforts have supported me and my colleagues to reach an agreement today with the hapu of Ngati Porou.

I have been thinking how this momentous event will be remembered.

It is satisfying to be standing here today, to hear the waiata and see the upbeat enthusiasm. That is why I am pleased to present two gifts to Ngati Porou to commemorate this occasion:

- The first gift are three reproduced photos from the National Library that show scenes of use of the foreshore and seabed. Because this agreement is based on your longstanding use and occupation of the foreshore and seabed in your rohe from time immemorial - I am pleased to gift to you copies of these photographs that have helped support your korero.

- The second gift is an instrument - a conch shell. I am advised that it can produce a remarkable range of sweet and haunting sounds. And that such an instrument was previously used for signalling, and was used in ceremonial and ritual roles too. This gift represents our journey together, and the future ahead. When it is played you will recall the journey we have made, today and how we came together to recognise the mana of the hapu over the foreshore and seabed in your rohe. And for the future it heralds a new way of working for local and central government.

I am proud to have been part of this process.

I am honoured to put my signature on this Deed on behalf of the Crown today. I thank you all for being here.

Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā tātou katoa.


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