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Flavell: Foreign Charter Vessels Amendment Bill

31 JULY 2014


Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-leader of the Maori Party

31 July 2014

Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker.

Thank you very much. I am pleased that the House has got a little bit of time just before we close off business. I wanted to make a statement on behalf of the Māori Party, in particular around our influence in the Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

I do this because last night in the Committee stage there were a number of statements made, in particular from the Labour members, about whether or not we were for or against this particular bill. I did want to acknowledge one of the members who called me, apologising for the misinformation that was released into the public about the fact that were supposedly blocking the bill from progressing through the House. For the record, there was no notice of motion put to us on whether the bill should be read. The Māori Party also did not call for the bill to be withdrawn; nor did we block leave, because leave was not sought. So I leave it there for the record and hope that our Labour colleagues will have heard that loud and clear.

We did, however, express a different point of view, a strong and independent Māori position, on the debate, which we continue to uphold. The reality about this bill is that it is not a black and white moment in time, without having the ability to question what is going on. As Martin Luther King said: “The time is always right to do what’s right.”, and that is pretty much the Māori Party view—that we will always speak up on issues that really matter.

So can I say that we are really aware of the conflicts and compromises that have been associated with this bill, but we will not ignore all of them merely for the sake of forcing the bill through the House, and I am hopeful that we will be able to do that at least today.

I want to be clear from the very start that we, the Māori Party, have zero tolerance for companies that exploit workers or do not follow the rules—absolutely. The Māori Party, from day one, has supported the drive to put better safeguards in place for foreign workers on board foreign-chartered vessels.

Indeed, it was our own very productive and constructive member for Te Tai Tonga in the previous term, Rahui Katene, who put forward a petition from the Service and Food Workers Union, Ngā Ringa Tōtā, which stated that this whole process needed to be kicked off, and she was the one who basically did that. In response to that petition former Ministers Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson called for a ministerial inquiry into the foreign fishing charter vessels. The inquiry was established to enable a comprehensive look at the state of our fishing industry following concerns that New Zealand jobs were being lost to foreign crews who were working in substandard conditions.

We believed then, and we believe now, that it was an indictment on the industry itself that it would not employ New Zealand crews on New Zealand vessels. There is a whole industry—ship building, maintenance, engineering, net making, and fishing—where we should be encouraging and preserving jobs for New Zealanders.

Whoever is working on our boats, the Māori Party believes that we need to maintain New Zealand’s safety, pay and employment standards for any worker within New Zealand waters. That is a basic human right that has been missing from foreign crews on foreign vessels in New Zealand.

There is, of course, a huge issue about the contribution of whanau, hapū, and iwi in the commercial fishing sector. The purpose of the Māori fisheries settlement was to return Māori to the business and activity of fishing. But the quota that was delivered to iwi through the settlement process failed, really, to give each individual iwi an innate ability to run economic fishing operations across the whole value chain. The restrictions that the law places on our quota mean that any adjustment for iwi to meet the new rules will take longer than the standard commercial fishing operation that has been in business for decades.

The objective of our involvement in this bill was always about creating a time for that evolutionary process. It was certainly never to dodge our obligations. The Māori Party actively worked with iwi to develop amendments and to try to make sure that this bill would be workable for all iwi involved and from an iwi perspective. Iwi are certainly not opposed to ensuring that workers’ rights are safeguarded, but what they were asking for is lead-in time to be able to implement the changes. In the meantime they would be happy for their boats to be monitored to ensure that they are meeting labour and human rights standards.

At the second reading and indeed at the Committee stage the Māori Party opposed the Supplementary Order Paper and the revised bill, because we actually believe it undermines and devalues the Treaty settlement package negotiated by iwi.

We know that the changes may mean that some iwi will no longer be able to operate. Big companies are better able to absorb the costs of changes, but those iwi and other operators who fish low-yield catch, cannot. There is a real risk that it will threaten their business, no matter how small they are. We believe that the Māori fisheries settlement must be durable. The Crown must act in good faith to ensure that we as Māori have a fair opportunity to catch up with our industry counterparts.

The Iwi Leaders Group has worked with us through its advisers, such as Te Ohu Kaimoana*, to put their case to the Government, and we will continue to work with the Government, whoever that Government is, to ensure that these genuine issues raised by iwi are taken seriously. The key for us is to ensure that iwi Māori are able to participate and directly benefit from having a sustainable New Zealand fishing industry.

This House is very aware that rangatahi Māori have the highest rates of unemployment and much more needs to be done to encourage them to move into the fishing industry. We need the money and those jobs of the fishing sector to stay right here where they belong, and not to be contracted out to foreign crews.

We want to see rangatahi Māori employed in the fishing industry. But I say this: we are not about to be bullied or silenced into raising the issues that whanau, hapū, and iwi have raised with us, and in a due and proper process.

I can say that the Māori Party has brought those issues to the House and to the debate in question time. We have also called various Ministers to caucus to have face-to-face discussion that we need. We have brokered meetings between iwi leaders and Ministers to ensure that their genuine concerns are aired. We have crafted amendments to reflect those concerns. We have written directly to the relevant Ministers, and we have also voted accordingly.

So to those various members across the House last night who said that we should be ashamed, I hope that they think again today. In fact, I would have a good guess to say that we have probably done most of all of the parties to facilitate an outcome for this bill.

Iwi leaders told us, as they did also to the Ministers and anyone else who bothered to listen, that the alleged breaches of human rights issues—the widespread abuse that was being discussed—was never proven in an inquiry. It was their absolute belief that the legislation that evolved was an approach that was sort of like a sledgehammer to a peanut. They always knew that there could have been a far more effective approach to resolving issues than what was eventually developed.

Iwi leaders pointed out time and time again that there could have been a different way ahead. The Minister the Hon Nathan Guy agreed to the approach, but as a result of the political pressure from other parties, that support was withdrawn.

So, in wrapping up, we will continue to keep all parties accountable about how the proposed changes impact on iwi, and their capacity to make the best possible use of their Māori fisheries settlement. At the end of the day, this bill is about health and safety issues on foreign vessels chartered to fish in deep-water fisheries. We need to ensure that we are getting the best economic return from our deep-sea fisheries, that robust protection provisions that are available on land are also reflected at sea, and that the monitoring of foreign chartered vessels and domestic deep-sea operators in our waters is adequate.

So on balance we vote in support of the work our party initiated three years ago to ensure that all human rights protections are upheld to affirm our international reputation as a world-leading fisheries manager. We acknowledge the iwi leaders group for their advice, and we say there will be another day when iwi will come back to raise those concerns that they have raised, and we look forward to being here to take those up. Kia ora tātou.


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