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Q+A: Marama Fox interviewed by Corin Dann

Q+A: Marama Fox interviewed by Corin Dann

Māori Party warning over RMA changes: ignore iwi at your “own peril”

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox says this is a new New Zealand where we celebrate our diversity and sit at the table together and make collaborative planning moves in our towns, in our regions, our councils and at our central government. Speaking on Q+A this morning to our political editor Corin Dann, Mrs Fox says if Māori had been at the table of local and regional government, “then I’m damn sure that our rivers would not have degraded to the state that they are.” “Iwi have been in the RMA consenting process for a long time now. They’ve worked very hard on how they do that. They’re pragmatic about it. They come to the local council table when they’re invited and when they’re notified to do so. But they’re only notified 5% of all notifications. So actually it is ad hoc, but it’s not just ad hoc by Maori; it’s been ad hoc by councils,” she says.


Please find attached the full transcript of the interview and here is the link on our webpage.

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Q + A
Episode 5
Interviewed by CORIN DANN

CORIN Welcome back to Q+A, well the Government finally passed its RMA reform bill this week after eight years of wrangling over this controversial law and it was with the support of the Maori Party that got it over the line, well co-leader Marama Fox is in the studio she joins me now welcome to you.

MARAMA Kia ora.

CORIN Kia ora, I wonder first if we could start with Grant Robertson and a potential new finance minister if Labour win. What do you make of him? Is that somebody you could work with? Do you like what you heard?

MARAMA Look, we’ve always said that we could work with anybody. What I’d like to see from Labour is simple messaging to our people about how they’re going to get real money back in their hands. Is it raising the minimum wage and keeping it there, indexing it to the median wage. Are we going to index benefits to the median wage? Just simple stuff that people can recognise and understand, ‘This is going to be beneficial to me.’ Because I listen to him, and I’m not sure that that was motivational for somebody.

CORIN To be fair to him he did say to me that he wanted to increase the minimum wage by $1 or $2 quite quickly. So, I mean, that’s something they’re definitely going to be focused on. Is that enough for you to potentially support them?

MARAMA There’s a number of things that need to happen if we’re going to eliminate poverty. We need to put real money in people’s hands. Minimum wage is one. We need to index benefit rates to the median wage. We also need to look at the Working For Families tax credit. That needs to be paid universally. That would put $70 in the hands of everyone on a benefit now if that happened.

CORIN And you’re only a part of two MPs at the moment. You obviously don’t have the leverage to get that out of Bill English.

MARAMA I’ve tried. I’ve tried.

CORIN You have tried. What sort of leverage, if you had four or five MPs, would that be a top demand? That you could get that out of a Bill English, potentially?

MARAMA Absolutely. New Zealand is signed up to the Sustainable Goals Agenda, of which poverty and eliminating it is one of those goals. There’s a target of eliminating poverty by 50% in the next 15 years. To actually do that, we need to have real fiscal injection into people’s hands. We can’t tinker around the edges and alleviate hardship forever. We actually need to do something.

CORIN This is why Andrew Little said you weren’t kaupapa Maori, wasn’t it? Because he said you’re supporting this National government and they aren’t doing that stuff for poverty.

MARAMA Yeah, he said that on the day before we went to Matatini.

CORIN You are propping this government up.

MARAMA We’re not propping any government up. They can do anything they want without us if they have the votes, but like with the RMA, when they need to get that across the line, then we’re going to walk in, we’re going to hold our line, we’re going to say, ‘These are out bottom lines. If you want our vote to support you, then this is what we need.’

CORIN The RMA, how significant is this new iwi participation part of it? Now, Bill English was saying this just formalises an ad hoc type arrangement at the moment around the country. Is that what it does?

MARAMA Listen, iwi have been in the RMA consenting process for a long time now. They’ve worked very hard on how they do that. They’re pragmatic about it. They come to the local council table when they’re invited and when they’re notified to do so. But they’re only notified 5% of all notifications. So actually it is ad hoc, but it’s not just ad hoc by Maori; it’s been ad hoc by councils.

CORIN A significant change, isn’t it?


CORIN So, in future, the onus shifts. The council has to go to local iwi and say, ‘We need to draw up some terms here for when we want a major consent. We have to talk to you guys.’

MARAMA That’s right. And it formalises, as Bill said, the arrangements that are there, but they’re variable depending on capacity across the nation, and what we want to do is make sure that we remove the variability, that everybody has an onus to front up at the beginning of the process and say, ‘These are our sacred places. If you’re going to do something here, please come and let us know.’

CORIN But you can’t stop the council doing something, can you?

MARAMA If you have an arrangement that says for notifications over things like fracking, over things like GE, over things like putting the sewerage from your council tanks into our rivers, then we want to have a greater say about that.

CORIN You have a say, but the council makes the final decision.

MARAMA But it’s collaborative planning, right? So we collaboratively get around the table, we say, ‘These are the things that are important to us.’ If they ignore that, then they do it at their own peril. This is uniting regions and councils to work together.

CORIN What does ‘at their own peril’ mean?

MARAMA Well, because imagine if you go to Wairarapa, for example, you start dumping sewerage into our sacred river, people are going to not stand for that for very long before they come out and force the local council to change.

CORIN So do you see in practice, in future, as this evolves over time and we have these formal agreements set up and there’s even potential for mediation if you can’t make these agreements, that they become set in stone and that there is a real power there for Maori?

MARAMA I do believe that that’s a real power for Maori. Because we’ve been left out of lots of conversations across consenting around our environment. Before there was the Green Party, there was Maori. We are, through whakapapa, linked to mother earth. Now, kaitiakitanga is about making sure we look after it. If Maori had been at the table of local and regional government, then I’m damn sure that our rivers would not have degraded to the state that they are. But we’ve been left out of that consultation and if we are in the consultation, sometimes we’ve just been tick-boxed, ‘thank you very much’.

CORIN That’s not going to happen any more. And of course, Winston Peters attacked this policy this week, calling it ‘brown-mail’, says effectively you’re creating a separate system here, that Maori get a special right over council consent decisions.

MARAMA Yeah, but that’s an irrational fear. What is the fear about having a Maori voice at the table?

CORIN But you’ve just said they will have a power.

MARAMA The power is to collaboratively plan what is best for our environment around consenting. How is that something to be feared? That’s unifying. That’s not separatist.

CORIN Well, he’s arguing that it’s a power to one group over the rest of the community.

MARAMA Well, not if you have to sit around the table together in a collaborative planning process. What’s happened in the past for the last 60 years is that Maori have been left out of the conversation. When we’ve had water allocation, look what’s happened to our water. They say nobody owns it, but they allocate it, and once it’s allocated, you can sell it.

CORIN You did say yourself that it would be at their own peril if council ignored those Maori views.

MARAMA I think it’s at their own peril if they ignore the collaborative planning process with Maori not there. We need to have all the stakeholders at the table make real plans for the future of our environment and of our consenting so that our water and our land is held in its pristine state for our future generations.

CORIN So what’s Winston doing here?

MARAMA Oh, Winston is going after the vote. He’s doing the divide and conquer.

CORIN Is it iwi/Kiwi racism?

MARAMA Of course it is. Of course it is. That’s why Hobson’s Pledge is aligned to Winston Peters and the New Zealand First Party. Ron Mark stood up in the house and said, ‘Our goal is to destroy the Maori Party, take Treaty out of every bit of law, make sure that Maori is ignored in the law.’ That’s going straight back to colonisation, isn’t it?

CORIN We went through this with Brash and the Orewa speech.


CORIN Do you think New Zealand has moved on?


CORIN Do you get the same sense…?

MARAMA No. I don’t get the same sense that happened back then. I think New Zealand has moved on. Our young children are coming up in a generation where they have a lot more understanding about Maori and Maori world, they are doing more te reo Maori in schools now. And when those young people come up and their parents go with them, they look at the type of rhetoric that Winston spews out and says, ‘That’s not the New Zealand we want.’

CORIN So are they out of touch? Are they, in a way, the gasps of perhaps an older generation? That this is a new New Zealand you’re representing here?

MARAMA I absolutely believe that this is a new New Zealand. Celebrate our diversity and sit at the table together and make collaborative planning moves in our towns, in our regions, our councils and at our central government. They are harking back to the Stone Age of colonisation. We can celebrate diversity. We don’t have to be all in the same melting pot, actually.

CORIN One other issue with the RMA was the genetic modification issue. So you’ve effectively said that the ministers can’t step in if a local council wants to grow GM crops, that the councils have control to be GM-free. What is the Maori Party’s position on GM, though? Are you opposed to GM or was this about a council decision-making process?

MARAMA Both things, really. First of all, the Maori Party has been about GE-free Aotearoa since 2004. It’s appeared in our policy manifesto. So, uh, what we want is that if a local council wants to be GE-free because it’s beneficial to their local growing environment, if they’re wine producers or fruit producers to the world and they get an added benefit of being organic, then that’s going to benefit them and the local council.

CORIN So what if it’s the Auckland council and it’s the university and they’re doing a vaccine that’s got GMOs in it? Have you got a problem with that?

MARAMA No, we don’t. Anything that’s GE has to go through the Environmental Protection Agency. You’ve got to ask; you’ve got to go under the HSNO Act. The RMA is not about defining the standards for GE. That’s where the EPA is and that’s what the HSNO does.

CORIN But I wonder whether this has just created more confusion. And New Zealand is going to need to rely on GM science in the future. It already is with Scion, with pine, ryegrass – all sorts of agricultural advancements from science and GM in the future and the new wave of GM. Hasn’t this created an awful lot of confusion, going to push scientists offshore and damage us?

MARAMA No, not at all. That can continue. If you want to do anything with GE in this country, you’ve got to go and, under the HSNO, get permission to do that, right? That’s where the protection comes from to decide whether it’s good or not to do. But if you’re a local council whose region benefits from having an organic produce that is marketed to the world, we need to allow them to do that. If you want to do GE pine forests somewhere, and your local council is OK with that, then you can do it there. But in Hawke’s Bay, in Northland, they have clearly said, ‘We benefit from having a GE-free environment. It adds value to our product and we can market it overseas.’

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