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Plan to Bend the Rules Threatens Democratic Process

National’s Plan to Bend the Rules Threatens Democratic Process

The Coastal Coalition is alarmed at the ramifications of Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson’s latest move to change Parliament's rules. The changes he is proposing would enable more that 20 Treaty of Waitangi settlement bills to be fast-tracked into law before the election. This would be achieved by allowing unrelated settlements to be included in an "omnibus" bill so that several can be enshrined in law at the same time.

According to Coastal Coalition spokespeople Dr Muriel Newman and Dr Hugh Barr, not only is the whole concept of fast-tracking settlements involving the privatisation of many millions of dollars’ worth of public assets into private tribal hands totally anti-democratic and a gross injustice to New Zealanders, but there is a big question over whether these gerrymandered rules would be used to ram foreshore and seabed deals through without adequate scrutiny as well.

When passing the Marine & Coastal Area legislation, Finlayson went to some lengths to explain that he was removing people’s fears about shoddy, back room political deals over foreshore and seabed claims, by amending the bill to ensure greater “transparency”. Under these changes, any agreement negotiated with the Crown to recognise customary title was to be passed by Parliament using a process similar to that for Treaty settlements. He claimed this would ensure “full public and Parliamentary scrutiny” and would prevent closed-door negotiations on customary title. Yet, before the ink on the Marine and Coastal Area Act is barely dry, it looks like he is trying to find new ways to fast-track the settlement process.

The Coastal Coalition wants an assurance that if the Minister succeeds in changing Parliament’s rules that negotiated agreements for customary title under the Marine and Coastal Area Act will not be fast-tracked but will be dealt with individually as the public were led to believe.
The Coalition believes that to reduce Parliament’s scrutiny of any of the government’s settlement deals with Maori is a real attack on the democratic process. To even suggest such a move reinforces a view that settlement deals are now more than ever politically inspired and that National and the Maori Party want them pushed through while they have the necessary voting bloc.

“We would urge other parties to block the Minister’s plan to change Parliament’s Standing Orders on the basis that if he wants to pass Treaty settlement bills before the election he should prioritise them on the Order Paper in a legitimate fashion instead of trying to bend the rules to ram them through”, Dr Newman and Dr Barr said.
Coastal Coalition: www.CoastalCoalition.co.nz

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