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Shameful foreshore legislation enshrines racism

18 November, 2004

Shameful foreshore legislation enshrines racism

The Green Party has condemned the Foreshore and Seabed Bill as racist legislation, grounded more in the 19th century than the 21st.

"This is confiscation, pure and simple," said Green Maori Affairs spokesperson, Metiria Turei. "No amount of political bluster and PR spin can disguise the fact that Maori customary rights have been extinguished and that the foreshore and seabed has in no way been saved from exploitation, damage and even sale."

Metiria compared the Act to such overtly racist legislation as the Settlement Act of 1863 that confiscated three million acres of Maori land, the Prisoners Act of 1880 that dispensed with trials for Maori prisoners and the Native Health Act of 1909, that made it illegal for Maori women to breastfeed their children or practise whangai (traditional adoption).

"This bill is a direct descendant of the racist legislation of our colonial forebears," Metiria said. "And to our shame, it is done in the name of all New Zealanders, in contempt of the majority of submissions to the select committee, the feelings expressed by the Hikoi and the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Maori."

Metiria warned that the divisions created by the legislation could only lead to increased racial tension and a climate of distrust in which Maori communities that have traditionally exercised a Kaitiakitanga role over their coastal areas rightly felt disempowered, undervalued and resentful.

"The tragedy of this 'great leap backwards' is that it was all so totally unnecessary," said Metiria. "The Greens have consistently advocated a way of recognising the mana whenua of hapu, while protecting rights of public access."

The Green position is that public access to the foreshore can be guaranteed in perpetuity, within a framework that recognises Maori customary title and Kaitiakitanga, which would also protect the environment. This could have been achieved by simple changes to existing legislation.

"The Greens opposed this legislation because we are committed to justice and are prepared to fight for it," said Metiria. "We have been tireless in our advocacy for the protection of Maori customary rights and the passage of this shameful legislation has only hardened our resolve to continue to battle for justice for all."

An audio file of Metiria's speech on the Third Reading of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill can be heard at:

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