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David Clendon on Waitangi National Trust Board Amendment Bill - First Reading

David Clendon MP
David Clendon MP
david [dot] clendon [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)
I think it is critically important that we retain a couple of the key characteristics of the original board as it was formatted, and those characteristics are those of representation and inclusion. Clearly, it was insightful to the extent that membership of the board represented Māori with significant mana and connections to the site and to New Zealand more generally, and, of course, Pākehā and Government representatives
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I am pleased to stand for the Greens and speak in support of the Waitangi National Trust Board Amendment Bill. On the face of it, typically, the restructuring by some amendments of a Government body might not excite much emotion or passion, except, of course, that this bill does relate to what is undoubtedly the single most important historic site in New Zealand. For that reason, of course, it is important that the work be done and that we get it right. I believe the Green position is that largely this does seem to be a well-intentioned and well-drafted piece of legislation that does effect some necessary and positive changes. For those reasons we, of course, will support it.

It has taken some time to get to this point. If I understand correctly, there was a review undertaken by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage—the Ministry of Arts and Culture as it may have been then—in 2006-08, and there were some concerns about the potential for constitutional conflict in the various roles of the Prime Minister particularly and, indeed, the Governor-General. It is interesting to note that in 2007 the then Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, broke with convention by choosing not to take up a seat that was available to him on the board, which, one can only assume, reflected a level of unease, perhaps, from a gentleman of the highest integrity. And I think there is a signal in that that all has not been well with the existing structure. So, as I say, I think it is a good thing to move on and to look at what and how we can do better.

I think it is critically important that we retain a couple of the key characteristics of the original board as it was formatted, and those characteristics are those of representation and inclusion. Clearly, it was insightful to the extent that membership of the board represented Māori with significant mana and connections to the site and to New Zealand more generally, and, of course, Pākehā and Government representatives. When you see names on that original board like Kāwiti, Henare, Mahuta, and Williams, these are names that resonate with anybody with the least understanding of, or exposure to, our New Zealand history. It is important that we retain that quality of representation, the breadth of representation, and the inclusiveness of the representation on the board. We have no qualms with this bill in the sense that we think it will achieve that. With people with goodwill, there is no reason we cannot continue to retain the best of it but make some necessary amendments to it.

I believe that there was initially some concern that the bill on the face of it appeared to be politicians handing away a level of power and control. That is not something that politicians want to do, typically. It perhaps created a little bit of unease or some questions raised, but I think that it is clear that it is well intentioned. It does address a potentially concerning constitutional conflict, and we see nothing in it that is not benign and helpful. I think it is important to acknowledge that in Waitangi as a site, as a historic site, and as a dynamic, live, living place, there have been some positive developments in recent years. The whole ambience and the whole dynamic of the place seem to have picked up. It is a more engaging place. It is in beautiful condition. It is well cared for. It reflects care and concern being put in to it. There have been some developments, and I think one would hope that the new board, in its new format, will continue. It is a historic site, obviously, but it is also part of our present and part of our future. It is very encouraging to hear that there are some positive plans afoot to expand the site, to add value to it. I must confess that I continue to be surprised by the number of New Zealanders who actually have never set foot on Waitangi. No doubt there are other places around New Zealand where people have not been, and to my mind it is peculiar. But I do think to the extent that we can add value to the site and make it a more open, more interesting, more engaging place for those who do not have the close relationship to it that some of us already do, as I say, the plans afoot, it would seem, will achieve that outcome as well.

I think that is as much as I need to say. As I say, the Greens are very keen and able to support this. We look forward to engaging in the select committee process. One of the things the bill does, of course, is to have a Government representative and a person representing the Opposition parties. It is important that those people, particularly the person representing the Opposition parties, are selected in a cross-party, consensual sort of way. Clearly, an MMP situation does require that there be a level of engagement before that appointment is made, to ensure that whoever stands in that role will have the support of all of the Opposition parties. Indeed, the same applies for the Government representative, given the likelihood that the Government of any day will constitute a number of different parties under our MMP system. We look forward to this. We think it is well intentioned. We think it will deliver good outcomes. We will be pleased to vote for its process through the House. Kia ora.

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