Q+A transcript: Panel discussions
HOSTED BY GREG BOYED
Time now to introduce the panel. From Auckland University, Dr Raymond Miller. Welcome along. Willie Jackson, radio host, chair of the National Urban Maori Authority. Good to have you here. And former ACT leader Rodney Hide. Welcome to all three of you. Let’s start with the fundamental problem here. What rights do Maori have to water, Willie?
National Urban Maori Authority Chair
Well, we’re gonna find that out, aren’t we? The Tribunal’s gonna put their recommendations up. But it’s a bit rich the Prime Minister saying ‘no one owns water’. Meanwhile, the government takes all the commercial interests out of it, makes all the money out of it. And I think that interview was fantastic. New Zealand should feel comfortable now. I saw Rodney even nodding away there, because surely there’s gotta be a sense of justice after that.
GREG This is about money, though. Let’s not faff about. This is about Maori wanting to benefit from the sales of the water and what happens to the water after that. And both people were fairly clear on that.
WILLIE Oh, absolutely. But why should New Zealand be too worried about Maori getting some benefits off this? I think Haami Piripi explained - Maori have been shut out of the decision-making, been shut out for the last 100 years. Everyone’s made money except Maori, the people who actually own it And so Rodney should feel comfortable because he supported the Foreshore and Seabed legislation of the Maori Party. He’s all about property rights. This is all about property rights.
GREG Property rights. Having said that, you’ve got power companies, you’ve got water bottlers, things like breweries benefiting from water. Why should Maori not benefit from it?
RODNEY Well, they do. Let’s not forget that the Foreshore and Seabed was about not going to court, not to the tribunal, and that’s a fundamental difference. And the rubbish of this is that the Maori are saying, ‘We haven’t benefited from this.’ What nonsense. Every New Zealander benefits from power generation, from the economic development of our resources, freezing works and all the rest of it. And no Maori now are living in a traditional way. We’ve actually all moved on. And if you go back to 1840, Maori didn’t have property rights in water. The concept was totally nonsense to them. This is about using a political forum to extract money from the rest of New Zealand. Willie, you use power. You’ve worked in the freezing works. You drive a car. You benefit from the water just like you and I. And the reality is this - that Maori, Pakeha, Chinese, Indians, we all have the same rights to water. And that’s the point.
WILLIE No, but that’s not true, because Sir Eddie Durie was saying, trying to make it clear for people like Rodney, that Maori have their own special set of rights derived from the Treaty of Waitangi, that Rodney’s not in agreement with. He wants to get rid of the Treaty. Anything that Rodney and his mates-
GREG You said he was nodding in agreement a minute ago.
WILLIE Well, I thought he was. I was mistaken. No, Rodney makes things up, because the Foreshore and Seabed was all about the Tribunal and the Tribunal was recognising what was happening in terms of Maori rights there. And I’m just disappointed now because Rodney’s been made redundant from ACT and now he wants to appeal to his mates.
GREG I thought you two would totally be on the same page about this one. Frankly, I’m shocked. Dr Raymond Miller, let’s talk about the political ramifications. We had so many New Zealanders turning out against asset sales. We saw the marches, we saw the petitions, we saw the whole lot This, though, looks like it could possibly head to court. Politically, what is that look going to be like for the government if they go, ‘Ooh, hang on, this is going to go to court. Maybe we need to listen to Maori.’
DR RAYMOND MILLER, Political
Well, first of all, I feel I’m in a very vulnerable position between Rodney and Willie.
GREG That’s why I’m sitting over here.
RAYMOND Well, exactly. But this is an interesting question, and I welcome this public debate, because I think it’s terribly important that we have greater understanding and goodwill, and that involves Pakeha as well as Maori. I think we did learn something today about the notion of proprietary interest. Part of the problem is how do we define water? Is it a claim for the whole of New Zealand or is it not? Because this is what- If it’s an individual iwi or hapu, that could be understood, but as with Foreshore and Seabed, as with Fisheries, we’re talking about the whole of New Zealand. The other question is we’ve heard so many different terms being used, and it’s going to be difficult for the government but also for the public to understand the difference between ownership and guardianship and proprietary interest and so on. But I think the third thing is that we don’t have a codified constitution that actually spells out what the government’s role actually is in all of this, because we’ve got the Tribunal, we’ve got the courts, we’ve got the executive, we’ve got parliament. We have no constitution that actually defines all of these different roles, and so the government is- Is the government going to try to overrule the courts if it goes to court and the court makes a decision? Or is it going to encourage further debate? I think politically they’ll be worried about what’s going to happen a year from now when they start rolling out the other assets. They don’t want to postpone things so that they’re going to have a problem at the next election. And also, and I’ll just add this finally, the latest public opinion polls show that it’s not hurting National. In fact, they’ve risen slightly in the polls. I think in the spirit of uncertainty, there might be a whole lot of people who might be opposed to asset sales but agree with the Prime Minister on this.
GREG A question put to Sir Eddie and Haami Piripi as well here, Willie, was is this not going be seen as a Maori money grab? How do you make it clear that that isn’t what it is?
WILLIE Well, by explaining the justice. It will be seen as a money grab if people like Rodney talk about it. Look, Maori have proven-
MIKE Can’t get a word in, Willie.
WILLIE No, but the point is, Rodney, and you know this - in the last 25 years, right, we all know the lands were taken. We put in the Treaty Settlements process, didn’t we? Now, if we wanted to wreck this country, Greg, we would have claimed what was actually taken from Maori. In Ngai Tahu, for instance, the claim came to probably $18 billion. What did Ngai Tahu claim? $170 million. What have Maori claimed in 25 years, Greg? $1 billion. For goodness sakes, Rodney’s mates down there in the South Island got $1.6 billion overnight with South Canterbury Finance. So New Zealanders should feel comfortable. Maori aren’t gonna wreck this country. Maori are responsible. Obviously there should be some compensation, but we’re not gonna wreck the country, Rodney, like you and your mates have done.
GREG Rodney, I suspect you don’t comfortable right now. What is your response?
RODNEY I was nodding my head in the interview because Shane did such a good job, and I learnt more about what the claim is about in those few minutes than I have in weeks, so it was a great interview. Look, this is a political opportunity. The Waitangi Tribunal isn’t a court of law. It’s a Tribunal set up by parliament. It’s basically, here’s one side of the argument. The Crown are against it. The Prime Minister should simply ignore it and say, ‘We are going full steam ahead.’ Let the courts sort it, and then parliament make a decision.
(in response to Annette Main interview)
GREG We heard what the mayor had to say. They’re still trying to stop this happening. Has there been an arrogance on the part of the Corrections Department, how they’ve handled this, Willie?
WILLIE Oh, I’m not sure about that, because it’s a very tough job. People on the parole board, my mother was on the parole board for 20 years, and they’re not the most favourite people for New Zealanders. I mean, what are they meant to do? This raises a couple of questions. I understand what they’re saying in Whanganui. I do understand it. This guy is the personification of evil. So it’s all right for Peter Williams to say ‘Are we a forgiving society?’ It’s a valid question from Peter, but they’re not going to his neighbourhood. You know, they’re not going into Ponsonby or Herne Bay, they’re going into these people’s neighbourhood down there, so they’re scared. They’re nervous. And one thing Mum said, she always said, there’s one or two per cent of these sociopaths that just can’t be turned around. This guy is probably one of those people. So I understand where they’re coming from. Maybe there should be a law change somewhere there.
GREG Rodney, what’s your thoughts on the way Whanganui’s reacted? We heard what Michael Laws said - he said he shouldn’t feel safe. That’s a pretty obvious kind of threat, isn’t it?
RODNEY Oh, I think it’s pretty sad how they’ve reacted. You’d expect some leadership on this issue. Stewart Wilson clearly should be locked up forever. He’s that bad. And given his lack of remorse or acceptance of what he’s done, I think that they’re in a terrible situation that the law says he’s gotta come out. But when you look at the parole conditions, he’s virtually locked up. He’s just gonna be locked up in a house. And I can understand their concern, but I think the leadership of Whanganui should be saying, ‘Let’s get alongside Corrections and let’s make sure the community is safe,’ rather than saying, ‘He’s not coming here. We’ll shunt him off to some other community.’ That’s what I would be expecting. I think this is bad politics.
GREG Raymond, this is the issue - ‘not in my backyard’. No one’s backyard wants a guy like this in it.
RAYMOND No, and I guess everyone’s asking themselves the same question - if he was being put in my street, how would I feel? And the answer is probably no one wants him. But we live in a civilised society, and a measure of a civilised society is not only the importance of protecting the citizens from people like Wilson, but also being able to treat people humanely, even when their own actions are inhumane, and this is the thing. So, I mean, he has to go somewhere. He’s, in a sense, done his time in terms of incarceration. There was not preventive detention. I mean, that would have been an obvious thing, but you can’t re-sentence him. So it’s finding the best way out of this, and I think it’s regrettable that no one from Corrections was available today, and no one from the government. I think the people of Whanganui deserve to hear from them.
GREG So there is a possibility he may not go to Whanganui. Talking about this going to court. He’ll go somewhere, and are we going to be doing this all again in a fortnight’s time? He’s out in, what, 15 days, I think.
WILLIE l think within our structure, in terms of Maori structure, we have these kinds of people. We have restorative justice. I don’t know if we’ve had anyone this bad, to tell you the truth. This guy just seems to be plain evil. But restorative justice, for instance, is based on redemption and the society that Raymond and- the sort of society that they want, and maybe we need to have a look at that, because we’ve talked about Maori justice, and we have a different way of looking at things. I really feel sorry for Whanganui, because this is just terrible, but we’ve faced a lot of this within our structure.
RAYMOND The problem is, Willie, of course, that he hasn’t accepted any of the offers of rehabilitation.
GREG The other thing as well, we’ve had Corrections, we’ve had parole, we’ve had the council and we’ve had Wilson’s lawyer. The government has stayed out of this. Is it time the government stepped into this somewhere?
RAYMOND I really think at a time like this that the government needs to exercise political leadership. And I know they can say, ‘Well, OK, this all began a long time ago, it’s not on our watch.’ That’s true enough, but there will be communities around the country that will be unsettled by all of this, and I think it’s important for the government to explain quite what is necessary with respect not just to Wilson but to other dangerous criminals who are released from jail.
GREG How do you think this will play out, Rodney?
RODNEY I think he’ll be there in 16 days or whenever it is. I can understand the government’s reluctance, because some of those meetings look pretty ropey. But at the end of the day, what are the Whanganui people looking for? They’re looking for a reassurance that this guy’s gonna be held safe, and I think that requires the government funding up, Corrections funding up, and explaining, ‘Here’s what we’ve got in place. Here’s how we’re gonna keep you safe.’ And let’s face it - this guy ain’t gonna get a date.
WILLIE He’s not gonna get away unless he’s a secret agent or something. They’re all over him.
GREG Yeah, but who wants to take that risk, of course. All right, to all three of you, thank you very much.