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Speech Harry Mikaere Chair Treaty Tribes Coalition

Speech: Harry Mikaere Chairman Treaty Tribes Coalition

Hui Taumata Waipapa Marae University of Auckland

We Must Win For All New Zealanders

Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the Treaty Tribes' strategy on the foreshore and seabed issue.

Today, people are talking about taking this matter to international bodies. Treaty Tribes would support those moves, if necessary. But it would be sad if Maori had to resort to international bodies. It would mean we saw no way of having our rights respected by New Zealand authorities. That would be a sad day. Treaty Tribes wants to succeed without taking that step. We believe we can.

Right now, we have only one goal: To stop this legislation in its tracks. We have said that we will work with all political parties to defeat the Government's divisive legislation.

Pakeha are the majority in New Zealand today. Pakeha are the majority in Parliament. Treaty Tribes have always recognised that Pakeha are our fellow citizens. When we speak, we try to speak to Pakeha, in their own words. Sometimes, we are criticised for that, but we make no apology. We believe Pakeha should be equally angry about what the Government plans to do, with respect to this matter. We believe Maori and Pakeha should unite to defeat the legislation.

When Maori signed the Treaty, we gave the British Crown the government of this land. Our property was to be protected. And, in Article Three, we gained, by getting the same rights and duties of British subjects.

This issue is about our property and our taonga. But, just as important, it is about our rights as New Zealand citizens to be equal before the law. We are focussed on that last issue.

The Government and Don Brash say: "One Rule for Everyone". Treaty Tribes say: "Bring It On!" Our campaign is designed so that every political party should be able to support it - if what they say, is what they mean. Our message has been: "One Rule of Law for All New Zealanders".

We believe that Maori have ownership interests in the foreshore and seabed. We do not believe that Maori should stop other New Zealander's from enjoying the beach and the sea. But we do believe that Maori have some interests that go back as far as a thousand years.

Many Pakeha do not believe this. They believe the foreshore and seabed are owned by the Crown. They are entitled to their opinion. But, in a civilised society, the place to resolve a dispute is in the courts. There should be one rule of law for all New Zealanders.

Maori should have the right to present our arguments to the courts. The courts should decide who is right, under the common law. That is all we ask: The right for Maori to go to court. If we lose in court, Treaty Tribes say that this generation of Maori would have to accept that. We would not like it, but we would have to accept it. But this generation of Maori can never accept legislation that would take away our right to go to court. We would have to fight that forever.

This issue has very little to do with the Treaty of Waitangi. It has everything to do with upholding the common law, inherited by all New Zealanders from England. The issues would be the same, even if the Treaty had never been signed. I am not a lawyer, but the common law demands that all New Zealanders have the right of access to the courts. That is the most important issue of all. If we lose that right, we lose everything, and so do all New Zealanders.

The right to have access to the courts is so important, that some academics even debate whether an Act of Parliament can take it away. But that is what the Government is trying to do. Treaty Tribes demand that all New Zealanders - Maori and Pakeha - have the right to go to court. That is our simple message: One Rule of Law for All New Zealanders.

Treaty Tribes say to Pakeha:

"If the Government gets away with taking away the rights of Maori to go to court, they could do it to you. You should be afraid of what the Government is doing. Join us in fighting the Government. Your right to go to the beach is not at risk from Maori. But your right to go to court is at risk from the Government."

And we say to Pakeha:

"If your rights to go to court are ever at risk, we will stand by you too."

Last month, Treaty Tribes went to Parliament to present this submission to all Party Leaders, and the Maori Caucus. It was a reasonable submission. It was not written for the minority of Pakeha who are rednecks, or the minority of Maori who are hotheads. It was written for Pakeha politicians. It was written for all Maori and all Pakeha of all goodwill. It was written for all people who believe in the law.

The Green Party, the Act Party and the National Party indicated they would vote against the legislation. But the Government rejected our submission on One Rule of Law for All New Zealanders. That means New Zealand First, United Future and the Maori Caucus will make the final decision on the legislation. They will decide this issue. We need the support of these groups to defeat the legislation.

Treaty Tribes say to the Maori Caucus, on behalf of Ngài Tahu, Ngàti Kahungunu, Ngài Tamanuhiri and Hauraki Iwi:

"If you don't actively vote against this legislation, we will vote you out next year. If you just abstain and let the legislation go through, we will vote you out. We cannot tolerate Maori MPs that would allow legislation to go through that would take away the rights of Maori to go to court."

We say to those Maori MPs:

"You must vote against this legislation, even if it means voting with the Greens, National and Act. You don't have to go into the same room with those other MPs to vote against the legislation. You only have to call your vote out in Parliament. The fact you may have to vote with the Greens, National and Act on this issue, is not an excuse to betray those who put you in Parliament in the first place."

To United Future and New Zealand First, we say this:

"You may have different views on the foreshore and seabed. In court, your views may ultimately prevail. But this is not about the foreshore and seabed. It is about the rule of law - One Rule of Law for All New Zealanders. You cannot, in good conscience, vote to stop a group of New Zealanders from having access to the courts."

To United Future, in particular, we say:

"You want a Royal Commission into the constitution. You want Maori involved. How can Maori be involved, when the Government is threatening to take away our constitutional rights to have access to the courts? Please vote against this legislation, for the sake of all New Zealanders."

This is a defining moment in New Zealand's history. Relations between Maori and Pakeha have not always been good. In the 19th Century, we fought wars against one another. But, in the 20th Century, we fought wars together - bravely - in North Africa, and in Crete, and in Europe. Maori and Pakeha fought alongside one another to uphold the rule of law of civilised societies. Now, Maori and Pakeha must fight together to uphold the rule of law in New Zealand.

On the Maori side, we need 100% commitment to work together - whanau, hapu and iwi, and also urban authorities together.

And we must reach out to Pakeha together. This is the way we could do that. This message works with Pakeha: "If they do it to Maori, they can do it to you!" Even the Business Roundtable stands beside Treaty Tribes on this issue - because they know that if the Government gets away with doing this to Maori, Pakeha could be next. If you agree with this message, we could consider how we could use it together. The more support we have for the message, the stronger it would be.

We must win on this issue. We must win because we owe it to future generations of Maori, to ensure their rights to have access to the courts are upheld. We must win because we owe it to all New Zealanders, to ensure their rights to have access to the courts are upheld. If we are united, we can do much to bring New Zealand together again.

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