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Foreshore and Seabed Bill First Reading

Metiria Turei MP
Metiria Turei MP
metiria [dot] turei [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

Mr Speaker

It is still possible to negotiate a solution that affirms the rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga of Maori and meets the needs of the general public. But only if the government withdraws this legislation and talks with Maori.

The Ngati Apa decision gave the Government a perfect opportunity to recognise the political dimension embodied in Article 2 of Te Tiriti and how rangatiratanga could be implemented.

But instead the Government chose a patronising 19th Century extinguishment and confiscation that will haunt this country for generations. It was, and still is, an utterly irresponsible act. And, sir, it is contrary to law.

Because the Court clearly said that the Government wrongly assumed it owned the foreshore and seabed, that customary rights - rights which predate the Crown's acquisition of sovereignty - still exist in New Zealand law.

But the government also assumes that private title under the European law is sacred and that tikanga derived customary title is meaningless and without value.

It is this presumption that underlines the contempt this government shows to Maori, that underlines the discrimination inherent in this legislation because it confiscates a form of title that is held only by Maori and allows title issued according to European law to stand.

This bill will redefine customary title and turn it into a privilege granted by the Crown. That is the extinguishment of rights and the confiscation of land that is unconscionable.

The Government argues that this is not a confiscation because Maori can still go the Court to have their rights recognised. It is this they wave in public to assure the rest of the country that they are not abrogating the civil rights of New Zealand citizens. But that right is an empty baseless right.

The High Court cannot affirm the full spectrum of customary title rights and responsibilities and nor can it grant any remedies for the loss of identified rights. What the Court can do is give you a list of exactly what you have had confiscated. How useful!

That Maori may then go to talk to the Government about that list of lost items is a farce.

And then, in an additional stab in the guts, the government negotiates with New Zealand First, a party headed by a Maori MP, for the High Court to grant territorial customary title to any group of non-Maori. What, to build landfills and toilets on the waahi tapu and coastal land, to pump sewage on our seabed?

This provision perverts the international common law doctrine of customary title and its application in Aotearoa.

Customary rights cannot, in law, apply to anyone other than the peoples with whom sovereignty resided before colonisation.

This legislation co-opts and perverts this legal concept to mask the expropriation of customary rights.

The Court of Appeal found in law that the Government had wrongly assumed it owned the foreshore and seabed. In response the Government will extinguish legal rights, confiscate land and put our foreshore and seabed at serious risk of future alienation and environmental degradation.

This Parliament is at a pivotal moment in our nation's history. The Greens ask the Government to withdraw the legislation and sit down with Maori and have a real dialogue about other viable solutions.

Of the 13 Maori MP's who have not yet turned away from this legislation, I want to say, we know where the injustice of this bill will lead this country. How can any of us wilfully and knowingly subject our people to this theft?

We all, Maori and Pakeha, in this parliament have the choice right now whether we take the path back to our colonial, paternalistic history of confiscations, unrest and injustice. Or we put on the brake, withdraw the legislation and take a path of deliberation, cooperation, peace and justice.

Sir, it is not yet too late.


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