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Agenda Transcript: Maori Party's Te Ururoa Flavell

Flavell - Take Terrorism Threats Seriously

For full transcript of interview click here
©Front Page Ltd 2007 but may be used provided attribution is made to TVOne and "Agenda"

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell is now taking a more cautious stanceon the nationwide police raids which have occurred in the past week.

The Maori Party has been heavily critical of police actions, but this morning on TVOne's "Agenda" Mr Flavell said possible threats of terrorism needed to be taken seriously.

"We have to take issues of terrorism very seriously. No doubt about that we have to take a hard course of action on that to make sure those issues are dealt with".

Mr Flavell said new information on threats to Helen Clark and George Bush should be taken into account.

"I think we've got to wait a bit longer for information about those serious claims about George Bush Helen Clark and so on because what we've seen over the last week or so is concerns from the general community about how this might impact on them".

Mr Flavell said however that his key concern was on the impact the raids had had on his electorate.

"My focus as the local MP is the impact these raids have had on the Tuhoe nation".

He said the link being made between the camps and Maori sovereignty is problematic because the concept of sovereignty has different meanings and objectives to different Maori.

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"From one end it's about taking over the country for some - one or two or three - who might happen to have that view through to implementing programmes that are of well being to their countryand about economic advancement - that's the length and breadth of the discussion".

He also said the Urewera Ranges camps suspected of militant-styled training were known locally as places of cultural learning.

"That's totally different from a military operation; a military camp where people are plotting to overthrow the Government or possibly assassinate George Bush".


AGENDA Transcript
Te Ururoa Flavell – Maori Party MP

©Front Page Ltd 2007 but may be used provided attribution is made to TVOne and "Agenda"

RAWDON The Maori Party's usually moderate Co-Leader Pita Sharples surprised many last week with his claim that the Police raids on Tuhoe activists has set race relations back 100 years, even National's Georgina Te Heu Heu said she thought the raids had not helped race relations. In Whakatane itself tensions are running high with a hikoi drawing nearly 1000 protesters on Friday, but is there more to this, is this the first real clash between the growing Maori Nationalist Movement and the State. Maori Party Waiariki Te Ururoa Flavell's electorate includes a great deal of the Tuhoe tribal rohe, he says his constituents are a people under siege, he's in our Rotorua studio and he joins Guyon Espiner now.

Well Te Ururoa more allegations this morning about what may have been the purpose of these camps, including claims that Helen Clark, John Key, and even George Bush may have been targets. Have you changed your mind at all about whether these raids were justified?

Well we've said right from the very start that if there are issues with respect to the whole nation of terrorism in its biggest concept we need to take those seriously. The second issue is if people are carrying weapons when we should let the course of law run its course, but these sorts of things I mean we've gotta wait a little bit longer for information around those sort of serious claims about George Bush, Helen Clark and so on, because you know what we've seen over the last week or so is concerns from the general community about the impact on them at the home base.

GUYON But do you take those claims seriously that they may have been targets, does this give you some cause and some pause for thought about whether your criticism of the Police has been justified?

TE URUROA Well our focus has been on the effects that it's had on the community, like I said before we have to deal with issues of terrorism very seriously no doubt about that, we have to take a hard course of action on those to make sure that those issues are dealt with. My concern as local MP is that the impact that these raids had at the start of the week, have had on the Tuhoe nation, on Maori, on Maori people in general, but more specifically around the Taneatua Uruatuki area where the focus of all newspaper reports seem to have come from.

GUYON Okay I want to pick you up on the Tuhoe nation stuff a little bit later, let's look at how some of this information was gathered and how these raids actually took place. John Key has told us that he was briefed by the SIS prior to these raids happening. Was the Maori Party leadership briefed by the SIS?

TE URUROA Not that I know of. Generally - as I understand it's not general practice that our people our leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia are briefed about SIS activities.

GUYON Would you expect to be in an MMP environment that was going to affect your constituents being given some sort of warning, are you disappointed that the government didn’t attempt to do that?

TE URUROA Oh well I spose if you're gonna keep everything in secret and run operations like that then obviously the fewer people that know about it the better, and it's not for me to comment on whether they should or should not have told us. I think that you know national threats sure, and in this case if the Police – or at least the SIS felt it was appropriate the Maori Party believed that there were some serious serious issues here then one would expect I spose that we were involved just as much as anybody else, but of course not being a part of that level of engagement I think probably best left for others to talk about that.

GUYON Okay can I come to the substance of the allegations here, I mean what we've been told is that people were in sort of military style training camps, that they were storing arms and even explosives, now what do you expect the Police to do. You’ve accused them of over reacting but what were they supposed to do in the face of that knowledge.

TE URUROA Well if it is that the Police know exactly who they're targeting then I've got no problem with the fact that people who are abusing the law, who are breaking the law need to be dealt with, that’s fine, but a different issue is that we've been focusing on this week is the bigger impact on the Police operation within the Taneatua Uruatuki. I mean as I understand it about 17 people have been arrested throughout the whole country. I think from information that I've got between let's say two and four people have been arrested in Waiariki electorate that I represent and one person has been arrested out of the Tuhoe area. I mean when I say that I'm talking about the Uruatuki operation. I'm wondering myself that if you get one person that’s been targeted in the Uruatuki Valley where you’ve got three road blocks, you have reportedly up to between 50 and 70 Police Officers, I think that is generally what most people are saying is over the top, it's rather excessive on the part of the Police and that’s not to deny that they need to take strong action where appropriate, but 50 to 70 Police and one arrest out of the Tuhoe area doesn’t seem to match up really.

GUYON What do you think the purpose of these camps were?

TE URUROA The camps that have supposedly taken place. As I understand it, what I've heard is that it seems to be a difference of interpretation. The Tuhoe people when they talk about the camps and they're mostly associated with Tama Iti are wananga, wananga and opportunity for people to come together to talk about in this case Tuhoetanga, to learn about their environment, about history, about language around that particular area, and as you may or may not know the Tuhoe nation backs on to the Urewera National Park and is bound to involve at some point or another all of those things I talk about, and possibly the care and protection of weaponry. Why? Because the people of the Tuhoe nation are living on the back doorstep of the Urewera National Park, rely on that place for food by way of deer, wild pork, those sorts of things and it's so close to the environment. Those are the sorts of things I understand that would be taught, that’s totally different from a military operation, a military camp where people are plotting to sort of overthrow the government or possibly assassinate George Bush. I mean they're just a totally different interpretation and that’s come through and unfortunately has been at the thrust of I spose a lot of the media interpretation of what's happened this last week.

GUYON Okay can you give me some idea of what your interpretation is on the connection between because it wasn’t only Maori arrested in these raids was it, it was European activists, environmentalists, any globalisation groups. What is the connection between what they want to achieve and what these Maori activists are about?

TE URUROA Oh I'm really at a loss as to work that one out because it has been in sort of two camps, one is I suppose the focus around Tama Iti and Maori sovereignty, versus issues with respect to the environment. You know in that regard I have no idea about the link other than the report that I had which was that of the 17 people arrested pretty much all of them according to a senior Police manager in my area suggested that all of them had visited the Urewera National Park in the last year or so, that’s about it.

GUYON You talked before about a Tuhoe nation, and we often hear about tinorangatiratanga and Maori sovereignty as a cause, what does that mean to you?

TE URUROA Well in the latest context, if I put it like this, that recently John Key did have a meeting with the Tuhoe representatives by way of their tribal executive where the question was asked what did John Key think about the nation of tinorangatiratanga or Te Mana Motu Ake O Tuhoe as it's known by in the Tuhoe nation. His response was well we're not into supporting any nation of sort of living apart or separatism, but when you actually nutted down, went down a little bit further what the Tuhoe people were talking about was in fact the ability of the Tuhoe people to take care of issues that affect their people in their area, that’s it, the ability to Tuhoe to shape their destiny, and that’s not to say that they sit out in the middle of the Urewera National Park and don’t have any interaction with anyone else. What it's talking about is that presently the government has schemes that are about building up – or I spose the term is basically building, and Tuhoe nation want their piece of the pie as well, but they want to have the ability to do things for themselves in their own way.

GUYON Well that stops well short though doesn’t it of a nation, a nation is a state which collects taxes, it may even have a seat of the UN, I mean what are your limits here, are we just talking about being in control of our own sort of programmes and agencies or what are your boundaries here?

TE URUROA Well they explained it by their ability as I say….

GUYON I'm asking you though Te Ururoa what you think about that.

TE URUROA Well the people that talk about tinorangatiratanga range in how they express that. From one end of the view it's about taking over the country for some, there's one or two or three that might happen to have that view, through to engagement with government agencies that would provide resources for them to go about doing and implementing programmes that are about wellbeing of their people, economic advancement, that’s the length and breadth of the discussion. So I mean anywhere in between there you can find a number of people…

GUYON What about your own feeling, I mean do you go as far as a separate Maori parliament?

TE URUROA Well what we're talking about this point is not for me to respond too much about that.

GUYON But look you’ve been in this area for decades and decades you can sit there today and give me your opinion on whether there should be a separate Maori parliament or not.

TE URUROA Well it's a bit of a contradiction really because I'm sitting in the middle of these Westminster system right now as a Member of Parliament representing the Maori Party and for our part what we believe is that the Maori Party represents the Maori House, everybody else the 117 Members of Parliament represent the other half of the agreement set out in the Treaty of Waitangi, that’s our view but in practical reality, there's still a lot of work to be done with respect to convincing the other 117. we're quite clear and that’s what we've attempted to do in terms of our representing our people in the parliament.

GUYON Okay can I come back to where we started at the top and ask you about race relations, I mean your Co-Leader Dr Pita Sharples said that this had set us back 100 years I mean is that credible?

TE URUROA Well I think it certainly expresses the frustration that Pita's had when he heard about the various actions of week from Australia and basically he's one that’s worked with the Police Force for some 33 years. Certainly he's attempted as best we can to try and get better interaction with the Police and Maori communities.

GUYON But do you believe it's set us back a century?

TE URUROA Well it's certainly made a dent in it and I think that Police also acknowledge that as well.

GUYON Alright, that’s all from me for the moment.

RAWDON We'll go straight to the panel. Is this a race issue, or is it only one if you make it one?

I think there's certainly a strong race element within it, I think you’ve however gotta take it into another context. My concern is that a months ago and I don’t think a lot of New Zealanders know this, New Zealand was one of the four holdouts in the United Nations against the adoption of the Declaration of Indigenous People's Rights. Now I suspect there has been a heck of a lot of talk and anger and possibly wild talk provoked by that determination on the part of our government without a great deal of explanation to New Zealanders as a whole to be a holdout. Now I'm sure that Mr Flavell has concerns about that action and I'd like to hear them, because I think that this is one of the underlying factors that’s at work in this situation.

TE URUROA I think that’s a fair statement to be made from David. Certainly what we've heard, and while I haven’t necessarily been engaged myself but certainly my colleague Hone Harawira has been throughout the nation explaining about the discussion from the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People and there's certainly an element of frustration from Maori people at least with respect to the non engagement by the government or at least not supporting the declaration one of four countries that didn’t. Whether it's sort of run over into the actions of some people for this last month or so I wouldn’t be able to hazard a guess.

DAVID I'd like to couple it with another fact that right now we've also got the Suppression of Terrorism Amendment Bill coming through the House. Now that bill makes some quite substantial changes to the kind of political activity that could be classified as terrorism in this country. For instance I think that the definition under the bill is that serious disruption to an infrastructure facility if likely to endanger human life would become a terrorist action.

RAWDON We might look a little bit later in the programme about the definition of terrorism.

DAVID I'd be interested in Mr Flavell's view as to whether or not that’s also feeding the flame.

RAWDON Is it feeding the flame?

TE URUROA Oh I don’t think personally that the discussion has yet got out into the community, there may well be some who have been tracking the legislation but it may well be once the information like David's just put out there becomes public I think that that will certainly feed the fire because you know we're talking about some offences that can already be taken care of by other legislation and here we're gonna wrap it up under terrorism and you know the outcome can be life imprisonment for goodness sake.

LIAM DANN – New Zealand Herald
Yeah well we're effectively gonna be giving the Police powers to carry out these kind of operations at their own behest really. Helen Clark isn't in a position then to actually intervene, she's not supposed to intervene in Police operations so it's gonna put the focus on that act, and that it should.

RAWDON Yeah fair enough, do you want to take the opportunity to ask Mr Flavell a question?

LIAM Te Ururoa I guess it's inevitably going to be a very difficult time and it does seem to be damaging to race relations because until we know for sure whether these actions are justified by evidence which we're not hearing about, there a lot of upset people out there but it is highlighting something and that’s the feelings of the Tuhoe people and what should we be doing as a nation and as a state to really make them feel like they want to be part of New Zealand and bring them into New Zealand and what can we be doing?

TE URUROA Well that’s probably the misunderstanding Tuhoe people believe, I mean they're from New Zealand Aotearoa and this is their home, they're not gonna go anywhere and don’t probably expect anybody else to. It's really simple, most of the people the leaders that I talk to talk about simply the ability of the Tuhoe nation to be able to determine their own destiny in a way that they think is appropriate for them and that doesn’t mean as I say cutting off from everybody else, they engage regularly already with other tribal nations, as they do with regards to the Crown over settlement processes right now. It's not about sort of running back and staying locked down and not engaging in any way. It's that simple, simply the ability to call their own tune in their own tribal nation without impacting on anybody else but they believe that that’s an implicit right that they have.

RAWDON Guyon where does this fit into the nationalism within our parliament?

GUYON Well I'm just wondering Te Ururoa and we did talk about this a little bit before about how far you see this going in terms of you take the Tuhoe nation and what they actually want to – how much control they want to have over their own affairs, I mean does it go as far as law enforcement?

TE URUROA Well before we go down that track I think we've just gotta step back a little bit. All we're doing is taking the discussion on to a future place that it may not necessarily end up. This whole scenario came about from the actions of the Police in the Tuhoe area where you’ve got a small community and that as you’ve seen over the television screens and even as recently as day before yesterday in the march in Taneatua it's a frustration of the people in that are about the actions taken by the Police in their village and they’ve got a number of scenarios that they put to me in my office about what happened in that valley. Is it appropriate that 50 or so police rode in the Uruatuki Valley, set up three roadblocks and hold up everybody take pictures of all the people who moved through the roadblocks, people just going about their everyday business on the back of a terrorism threat, that’s the key issue here, and I hope that it doesn’t get lost in the discussion.

GUYON I want to look at the broader issue though of what a Tuhoe nation might actually achieve, I mean in what respect are they a nation?

TE URUROA Well they're a nation in the sense that right here and right now they know their tribal boundaries, they engaged with other tribal nations throughout the country, and I can't speak for others but I suspect that there are other tribal nations throughout the country call themselves a nation and I spose that comes down to definition. For their perspective they know who they are, they know their tribal boundaries and in the sense this is the bigger impact about this action this last week is that throughout the newspapers, throughout the talkbacks, throughout the editorials the whole name of Tuhoe, the name of Uruatuki has been branded across and I spose the main fear is that they're seen to be and will always be remembered as the Tuhoe the terrorists, and that’s the discussion I'd have to say in the number of hui I've just been to in the last couple of days, and that’s the unfortunate thing.

RAWDON Mr Flavell what feedback have you had from other tribal nations across the country as you put it?

TE URUROA Not so much tribal groups or runanga that might be formal organisations but as I've gone just engaging in electorate activities and certainly my colleagues as well, Hone, Pita and Tariana, the general feedback has just I spose a real shock at what's happened, certainly almost mocking in the sense that how can it be that we have this in Aotearoa, a belief I spose that Police have certainly been over the top in their actions, but also recognising that we've gotta do something if there is something serious, but just on the fact of it on the information that we've got and engagement with the Tuhoe people in the last couple of days or so just I spose an element of sadness really that Tuhoe people have been branded like this and a sense of unfairness really.

RAWDON Quickly give the opportunity for the panellists to have another question.

DAVID Mr Flavell you mentioned that Tuhoe know their boundaries, they’ve got a perception about the Tuhoe nation, is that generally shared by those who live on the borders?

TE URUROA Yes it is.

DAVID Isn't there some conflict over claims in that area? This is one of the reasons why New Zealand voted against that declaration because we had to resolve those kind of conflicts.

TE URUROA Well these are the things that we as a party have been talking about in the Waitangi Tribunal, that those issues can be dealt with, sorry the settlements process the government has embarked on unfortunately puts iwi one against the other, but I'm fairly confident that we have the resourcefulness, we have the expertise amongst ourselves to sort that out, but I can say I think with some confidence that iwi that border the Tuhoe nation recognise where their boundaries are, sure there might be one or two sticking points and that’s inevitable but that doesn’t mean to say that they don’t get on and certainly that they could sort some of those issues out. In the bigger picture people know where the Tuhoe nation is that’s for real.

RAWDON Thank you very much Mr Flavell.


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