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Turia Speech Foreshore and Seabed Bill 2nd Reading

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party Second Reading, Foreshore and Seabed Bill, 16 November 2004

The last time that I was granted leave to speak on the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, was on a defining day in the history of this nation.

The nation will not forget the 45,000 who marched to Parliament, to describe their utter outrage and grief, at the introduction of the Bill.

And the Prime Minister chose to talk to a sheep. The one thing we had in common with Shrek, is that we were both fleeced.

Fleeced by a Bill which will extinguish another Maori inheritance, this time to the foreshore and seabed, an inheritance that is recognised in tikanga.

Mr Speaker, today is another such defining day in our history – a day where a travesty of justice is being supported into law.

Whatever “rights” or “redress” it purports to offer, the fact remains that the Foreshore and Seabed Bill takes away the foreshore and seabed from tangata whenua.

After 1840 most of our whenua was of course confiscated under various laws but Maori rights in the foreshore and seabed were never actually extinguished. The Bill confiscates what little Maori have left by default.

The colonising heritage took from our people their land, their whenua, their moana with overt violence in the 19th century. Over the last century and more the alienation has become more insidious through the influence of law makers.

The Court has found that the assumption of sovereignty in Aotearoa in 1840 means that in accordance with long established common law, title was subject to the pre-existing property rights of tangata whenua.

Maori customary title is no different that that of any other common law titles which continues to exist, until it is extinguished.

That is why we have got this Bill. Because it can only be extinguished by an Act of Parliament.

What the Waitangi Tribunal found, was that the indigenous customary title has always existed. Indigenous customary title is recognised by common law and affirmed by the Treaty of Waitangi.

Both the Maori Land Court and the Court of Appeal agreed that the concerns and claims of tangata whenua concerning the seabed and foreshore should be heard.

Instead what we have seen over these last eighteen months is a whirlwind ride where the Government is acting in a reactionary manner, attempting to change and override common law, the Treaty of Waitangi and the decisions of our nation's courts.

And most importantly of all, attempting, by proclamation, to over-ride the interests of our people.

I was interested to hear the word ‘integrity’ being floated by the first speaker in this debate. The Deputy Prime Minister should be aware of the definition of integrity: meaning the quality of having strong, moral principles; the state of being whole; the condition or being unified or sound in construction; internal consistency or lack of corruption.

Mr Speaker, our contention today, is that this Government, this Bill, fails to achieve any of these qualities.

If we had a Government with strong moral principles, we would see demonstrated the paramount principle as the principle of justice and that’s what we’re being denied.

Instead, the Government tried to mislead the nation by plucking four concepts out of the air and calling them principles.

It talked of the Principle of Access: our people have always been clear in stating that there has never been any intention to deny people access to the beaches or those areas.

It talked of the Principle of Regulation: yet the authority for regulation has been with local councils, regional councils and Department of Conservation– the question of the Crown’s role in regulation has never been questioned.

It talked of the Principle of Protection: what they really meant was the protection of private property rights would be sacrosanct. Protection of private investors, of harbour companies, of ports. Not of the guardians, those who for centuries have safeguarded and cared for takutaimoana.

It talked of the Principle of Certainty: the one certainty we have is that there is no way that the Crown is acting in the interests of whanau, hapu and iwi. The certainty is a racially divisive Bill because in fact the only groups that had certainty were private property owners.

Integrity, it would seem, is also about the state of being whole.

The state of being whole is not to pit one group of people against another.

I was fascinated to hear Mr Peters speaking tonight that Maori have NZ First to thank for this Bill tonight. He spoke also of his belief that this Bill was in the interests of the entire nation.

Let me be clear, Mr Peters’ interest is purely and simply for his constituency, the New Zealand First constituency.

It is a very clever strategy to get someone of Winston’s calibre to take responsibility for aspects of the Bill that Labour knew were behind the great flight from the Maori seats. In doing so, they are trying to move the outrage of the people onto the Maori members of the New Zealand First party – who of course don’t stand in Maori seats.

In taking out ancestral rights, in limiting customary rights to an activity, Mr Peters can delude himself into thinking that he will be thanked by tangata whenua, but we know better.

Customary rights are not an activity.

It is not about limited to collecting hangi stones, and launching waka. It is a development right. It is a property right.

The foreshore and seabed has always been open to use and enjoyment for all New Zealanders. Our rights are longstanding. Any extinguishment of those rights is raupatu.

Mr Speaker, the third aspect of integrity is the condition or being unified or sound in construction.

As we have seen in Mr Horomia’s release, and in his speech tonight, this Government is far from unified.

Mr Horomia used the word, ‘fear’

Mr Speaker, the Minister protests too much.

His plaintive plea that Maori have nothing to fear with the passing of this legislation recognises that he knows too well the reality of what our people think of this Bill.

The reality is that Maori have almost universally rejected both the policy and the Bill.

And these are all our people, including the so-called haters and wreckers, or the academic elite, those on the gravy train, the cunning, the academics, pakeha, mainstream churches ; however they try to dismiss us.

The Waitangi Tribunal found the Bill was inconsistent with the text and principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination requested the Government to respond to allegations that the Bill racially discriminates.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets the benchmark against which the actions of Governments may be judged. Article 17 of the Declaration states that “No-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property” and it is clear that the unilateral extinguishment of Maori rights and title envisaged in the Bill is an arbitrary deprivation of property interests.

The final component of the definition of integrity is the question of internal consistency or lack of corruption.

Mr Speaker, much has been made of the amendments that are supposedly are about creating a Day in Court. Under the proposed legislation, territorial customary rights will be established through the High Court, a compromise position which is meant to placate tangata whenua.

A day in court is an impossible dream for most Maori.
The costs to take a case though to the High Court are exorbitant, probably in the line of tens of thousands of dollars, so most Maori will be excluded

The Maori Party is adamant that this Government should have treated tangata whenua in the same way as all other New Zealanders and allowed due process. The Courts must be allowed to do their job and reach a decision based on the law of the land.

The nation tonight knows that the government chose to interfere in the due process of law when it chose to legislate this issue.

We know that as soon as the legislation is implemented our people will lose all that they have lived off for the past thousand years.

Mr Speaker, it could have been so different.

The Government could have considered amendments to Te Ture Whenua Mäori Act. Amendment of one section in the Act would render customary land inalienable and would therefore provide security for the Crown about the foreshore and seabed remaining in New Zealand ownership. one section in the Act would render customary land inalienable and would thereby The Government could have chosen a conversation.

A meaningful and honest conversation. A conversation based on listening to each other, on integrity, on the principle of justice.

Not being squashed into a twenty-minute submission, which would be ignored or not heard.

The consistent message from our people was to allow the conversation to take place between tangata whenua and other New Zealanders who have made New Zealand their homeland.

Instead this Bill represents a return to the past – repeating practices of confiscation and suppression of our tikanga.

Mr Speaker, there is an alternative.

We have a chance to bring to the nation the possibility of a much stronger relationship among all peoples in this land.

A chance for a change for the better.

The time is right for decisive action.

As Mr Peters himself said tonight, the next hikoi will be to the ballot box.

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