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Rahui Katene Speech: Biosecurity Law Reform Bill

Biosecurity Law Reform Bill – Second Reading

Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga Tuesday 16 August 2011; 5.40pm

The Maori Party, in our founding statement, expressed our commitment to keeping our natural resources and environment healthy, safe and intact for everyone and for future generations.

Within this, the Maori Party is also committed to assisting whanau, hapu and iwi, as tangata tiaki, to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the wellbeing and future good health of the environment.

Both of these commitments lead us, naturally enough, towards a position of support for this Biosecurity Law Reform Bill.

There are five key areas identified in this bill:

· border risk management,

· marine bio-security,

· readiness and response,

· pest management,

· compliance and enforcement.

Sustainable success in these areas will depend on the level of decision making which, ultimately, leads the operational side of biosecurity. It is for this reason that we believe it is important to look at the decision-making for biosecurity before delving into minute details of the bill.

At the very core of the Treaty of Waitangi is the principle of equal partnership. This means real involvement by tangata whenua at decision-making level, regionally, nationally and at a Ministerial level.

As kaitiaki and Treaty of Waitangi partners, Māori have a particular interest in ensuring appropriate delivery and integration of mātauranga Māori me ōna tikanga into biosecurity science.

This integration must occur in a way that maintains the cultural integrity of these knowledge systems and cultural practices. Constant communication with Biosecurity New Zealand would allow Māori to build capacity and capability in this field.

But this House is also considerably better off at this point of the second reading, than we were when the Bill first came before the House last year, given the wisdom reported in WAI 262.

What that report tells us is that Māori have diverse interests in the management of taonga such as indigenous flora, fauna and resources as both kaitiaki and developer.

These dual roles oblige Māori to be involved in decisions that may impact on taonga.

WAI 262 informs the House that iwi have relationships with species which are emblematic and have a spiritual element to them and their connection to the wider ecosystem, particularly with regard to native plants such as harakeke, koromiko, pohutukawa, kōwhai, puawānanga, poroporo, kawakawa, mānuka and kūmara and also, as uri of Ngati Koata of course I am proud to speak of our direct relationship to the tuatara.

The relationship is underpinned by our own knowledge of these species, or mātauranga Māori. Yet the understandings of New Zealanders with the environment today are largely based on the Pākehā relationship with the environment, the Māori relationship being overlooked.

Eventually this will cause this traditional knowledge and approaches to be lost.

Mr Speaker, the interests of kaitiaki and those involved in the advancement of scientific and economic knowledge needs to be managed so a balance between the two can be achieved and both interests can be recognised and respected

How that relates to this legislation is quite simple. There is an expectation that their cultural, spiritual, environmental and economic values will be explicitly reflected in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Bio-security New Zealand’s decision making processes.

We believe that Māori are well positioned to identify biosecurity issues and research needs important to Māori.

At a national level we would like to see tangata whenua values and interests incorporated in the management of biosecurity as it is an effective way to recognise the customary use of indigenous biodiversity according to tikanga. This would mean a real partnership between tangata whenua and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Biosecurity New Zealand.

Too often Maori are brought into the fray by Government departments too late in the process – more often than not, the fundamentals of a decision have been made already. It is largely a box-ticking exercise at that point which benefits no one, especially iwi. The Maori Party believes that the Government can and should do better than this. Maori need to be involved when the decisions are being made, not after a decision has been reached.

The relationship with Biosecurity New Zealand therefore, would have to be one between tangata whenua and the Director General to be of any real substance. Such a relationship would also ensure that Maori have the opportunity to debate and table reports such as WAI 262 before the Director General as one would expect from a Treaty partnership.

At the very core of the Treaty of Waitangi is the principle of equal partnership. This means real involvement by tangata whenua at decision-making level, regionally, nationally and at a Ministerial level.

We would like to hear from the Minister how a formal relationship between Iwi and the Director-General of Biosecurity New Zealand can be enhanced.

It is also important for Māori to be aware of potential impacts from incursions of pests and diseases associated with taonga and resources in their rohe.

At the regional level then, we believe that the legislation should provide for the role of tangata whenua as kaitiaki when developing and implementing regional policy statements and regional and district plans associated with biosecurity.

A blueprint of how this partnership could work is the Ngati Tuwharetoa, Raukawa, and Te Arawa River Iwi Waikato River Act 2010 which sees iwi have equal representation on decision-making and management bodies as well as allowing for mana whenua iwi to develop their own strategies for the river. This would eventually be incorporated into the Waikato Regional Policy Statement.

During this significant week for Tainui Waikato, with the Koroneihana in progress, it is fitting to pay tribue to those visionaries behind this legislation. This is a true treaty partnership at a regional level and goes beyond cursory consultation which has proven ineffective for Maori. It is, indeed, a model which we would hope this Biosecurity Law Reform legislation could benefit from.

We also believe that an arrangement whereby iwi have equal say in decisions that affect them would address the need to ensure that there is regular and informed consultation with tangata whenua as it relates to protecting and enhancing areas and habitats that have particular significance to Maori.

The key requirement is that tangata whenua should be involved in, and be given equal decision-making status in the development and implementation of regional policy statements and regional and district plans associated with biosecurity.

Finally, at a Ministerial level we believe that it is in the best interests of iwi to be extensively represented on the Biosecurity Council of New Zealand which plays an important role in strategic biosecurity policy development as well as advising the Minister for Biosecurity.

The council has representatives from each of the primary production sectors, environmental organisations and regional councils and yet there is no iwi voice. The Maori Party believes that this needs to change for there to be a lasting Treaty partnership in relation to biosecurity.

We want to see the active involvement of tangata whenua in the protection of cultural values to protect the native plants and animals and other resources that are taonga to Maori.

In order to achieve this very important goal, Maori need to be involved in decision-making at all levels and Government need to be bold. We believe that the provisions we have sought are sufficient for this.

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