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Community Forum urges Government to heed Tribunal

Press release March 10, 2004
Network Waitangi Whangarei

Community Forum urges Government to heed Tribunal

A public meeting in Whangarei last night resolved to urge the Government to think again about the Waitangi Tribunal's report on the seabed.

The forum, attended by about 100 people, was organised by independent Treaty education group Network Waitangi Whangarei, to give Pakeha New Zealanders an opportunity to discuss the issue.

Spokesperson Tim Howard said participants at the meeting were alarmed that the Government could dismiss the tribunal's detailed report so quickly, without even the opportunity for Parliament to consider it.

He said it was felt that the Government had now effectively sacked the referee in a "game of two cultural halves", after having already moved the goalposts by sidelining the Court of Appeal.

The forum was kicked off by speeches on the legal and ethical issues for Pakeha by law lecturer Dr David Williams, community worker Keir Volkerling, and Treaty educator Moea Armstrong.

Points made by the speakers included the need to uphold British-based common law property rights, which include Maori collective ownership rights. Pakeha people could not ethically or morally support the Government's planned discrimination against these rights, while individual titleholders continued to enjoy riparian rights, and the removal of due process rights.

Speakers noted the irony of the Government creating a new grievance by taking more Maori land without offering compensation, at the same time as apologising and paying restitution for previous governments which have done the same. The effect of this legacy on future generations of both cultures, was deemed to be clearly irresponsible.

A speaker said the issue was not so much about Pakeha access to the beach, which Maori have continually allowed and assured us will continue, but about access to the economic development rights to the vast natural resources at stake. The local hapu should be trusted, more than any particular government, to manage the development of these resources in a way that would ensure profits stayed in the local economy, to benefit all.

Mr Howard said the meeting had been organised partly in response to the news media and politicians assuming that most Pakeha wanted the confiscation to go ahead.

He said a speaker had pointed out that there had been no objections by thousands of Pakeha visiting a Whangarei beach this summer, to a notice posted by a hapu stating that they were the owners and guardians of it, and that Pakeha were, as usual, welcome to use it responsibly.

He said there was concern from the public that if a government could legislate to take the land, it could also in future legislate to sell the land.

He said the meeting had acknowledged the effects of the "tyranny of the majority" on the rights of tangata whenua, and said there was an openness to looking at new models of decision-making.

At the very least it was felt that there should be consensus between hapu and Cabinet before any change to the rights of one party to the Treaty, and the meeting backed the tribunal's recommendation for the so-called longer conversation.

The resolution that was passed unanimously, reads:

“After listening to speakers and discussion this evening, we sincerely and respectfully and firmly urge the Cabinet and Government to further study the Waitangi Tribunal findings, to take steps to negotiate in good faith with Tangata Whenua in the North and South Islands, and to act to implement the findings of the Tribunal as they formulate policy and legislation.”


Contact: Tim Howard
Phone: 09) 430 7464
09) 434 6633

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