For sure the act is simply wrong

The paydirt for the Maori Party in entering into a relationship with the National Party has always been more to do with shifting positions than political alignment.  Maori want mana from our political system – and National, very cleverly, have worked out ways to deliver this – even while they seemingly offer a political agenda with very little positive for the vast majority of Maori.

So the new relationship is delivering fruit.  The Maori Party’s raison d’etre was getting rid of the Foreshore and Seabed Act – and the recent “independent” review has delivered a resounding verdict – the Act needs to be repealed because it is “simply wrong in principle and approach”.

The Act severely discriminated against Māori. Supporters of the Act claimed there was uncertainty but the Act took away the right to go to Court to have the uncertainty resolved.  It imposed extremely restrictive thresholds for the recognition of customary interests and severely reduced their nature and extent. It drew on legal tests that had developed in other countries whose historical treatment of the issue was entirely different from our own. It was simply wrong in principle and approach. The timing and the process were also wrong. It caused much anguish and Māori and to many non-Māori as well.  

 The Maori Party are pretty happy.  Maori activism on this issue, after all, resulted in Aotearoa being told by the United Nations that we’d enacted racist legislation.   Tariana Turia deserves congratulations and respect for her leadership role in this – she took huge risks in leaving Labour over the issue, huge risks in working to establish the Maori Party, and huge risks in leading them into a closer relationship with the National Party.

Attourney-General Chris Finlayson continues to describe the Act as unsuccessful and discriminatory, and promises the Government response to the recommendations will consider the interests of all New Zealanders.  He has the history, of course, of representing Ngai Tahu in negotiating with the Crown.

What a welcome turn-around from National, for which, I suspect, Chris Finlayson can take credit.  Because the National Party in 2004 – alongside a media baying for blood – was an enormous part of positioning the Labour Party on Maori customary rights to the foreshore.  To quote the then leader, Don Brash, on the issue:

We will deal with the foreshore issue by legislating to return to the previous status quo – the settled legal situation before the Court of Appeal decision. That is a position where for the most part the Crown owned the foreshore. In so far as there was uncertainty about the situation before, we will clarify the position. Public ownership leaves room for recognising limited customary rights, but we will not allow customary title. If this Government issues such title, we will revoke it.

The Labour-led response in 2004 was cowardly and lacking in any kind of integrity.  The review of the Act is a welcome start to repealing some embarassing legislation in a country proud of having “the best race relations in the world.”  

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4 thoughts on “For sure the act is simply wrong

  1. There may be something tying the Nats to the Labour Party response to the Court of Appeal decison. However, what you have described is definitely NOT it. You don’t even have the year right….

    I believe the sequence of events went something like :

    1. 19 June 2003 – Court of Appeal announces decision
    2. 23 June 2003 – Labour Government announce they will legislate to prevent any applications for title
    3. 28 October 2003 – Brash becomes Leader of the Opposition (just over 4 months later)
    4. 27 January 2004 – Brash’s Orewa speech (just over 7 months later)

    Personally, I think it had more to do with the university educated Labour elite being frightened of the effect on its ‘working class’ bretheren. Oh, and maybe I’m stretching it here, but hadn’t Labour just announced it was going to ban appeals to the Privy Council (which was the only other avenue left open) ?

    BTW, I definitely agree there was a lot of ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ posturing (and worse) on race around those times, but there were elements on both sides of the house, and outside parliament, that were willing to play the race card.

    Attempts to lay ALL the race related issues on to the Nats will result in people assuming you’re a labour apologist. That could mean your valid (and valuable) contributions on public and private violence, especially against women, being tarred with the same brush. And that would be a shame.

    • Hi Martin,
      The Foreshore and Seabed Act was passed in 2004, this is what I’m referring to in the only year I quote in this post. Have posted on this issue before in more detail, because of course you are right about the events leading up to the legislation.
      I certainly do not lay all race-related issues at the foot of the Nats. In fact, I’m impressed with their approach to the Maori Party, and have blogged on this before several times, much as I acknowledge the tensions it holds. This is not the first time – nor will it be the last – that I have criticised Labour’s policies towards Maori and other non-Pakeha. Or other left-wing commentators and unions for that matter. I’d be gobsmacked if anyone reading more than a sentence of the things I write could construct me as a Labour apologist frankly 🙂

      • My apologies for, I suppose, “coming on too strong” in the last paragraph 🙂 – My only defence is that I’d just finished reading some posts and related comments on The Standard site where JK came off as Satan’s nasty older brother 🙂

        I only dip in and out of your blog, but have been seriously impressed with your writing on Women’s issues, especially around domestic violence. I would hate to see that ignored, and that’s what I was trying to caution you about. Looking at it now, it was a rather clumsy attempt 🙂

        PS feel free to replace rather with very, if you wish !!

        PPS Thanks for your good natured response – the interwebs need more people like you 🙂

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