An Open Letter to the Maori Party: Marine & Coastal Bill

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Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou
Kia Mau Ra
Kia Mau Ra
Ki Te Mana Motuhake

Members of the Te Upoko o te Ika branch of the Maori Party strongly oppose the Marine and Coastal Bill recently introduced into Parliament and supported by four members of the Party at first reading, including our MP Rahui Katene. We ask that the Maori Party gives serious consideration to opposing the bill at the second reading unless significant changes are made at the select committee stage.

The Maori Party was formed out of our peoples rejection of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill 2004, and frustration at a Labour government who was prepared to put our rights behind those of other New Zealanders. Many members saw the formation of the Maori Partyas a positive step to correct the governments injustices and breaches. In 2005, this issue got the Maori Party into Parliament, which was an indication of how strongly many Maori felt about the issue.

While Maori Party Members of Parliament have worked hard to improve the situation, unfortunately, the proposed Marine and Coastal Bill re-inforces and consolidates the inequalities and the injustices of the Seabed and Foreshore Act 2004. The discriminatory nature of the Act was noted by both the Waitangi Tribunal in terms of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

In particular, the bill retains the confiscation of Maori land that our people found so offensive in the 2004 Act. It retains the discrimination inherent in the Act in that limits and conditions are placed on our entitlements that are not placed on other land owners. Thirdly, access to the courts has been a key aspect of this issue since the ruling of Judge Hingston, Maori Land Court, in 1997. While the Bill re-opens access to the courts, the door opens on a brick wall so thick and so high as to be an impossible impediment to many Hapu and Iwi as some have already publically noted.

The issues that remain to be addressed in the Bill are that:

  • Although the Bill repeals the 2004 Act, it does not remove the inequalities within the 2004 Act, rather it enshrines them in new language;
  • Although it eliminates the idea of vesting the seabed and foreshore in the Crown, the Bill still confiscates Iwi and Hapu land as it vests their interests in a common space as established by the Crown
  • This common space refers to land supposedly owned by nobody, however the Crown asserts extensive rights and authority over this common space, and the concept applies only to foreshore land claimed collectively by Maori, and specifically excludes the foreshore held by others under private title which is discriminatory;
  • Although it restores access to the High Court for Iwi and Hapu to claim customary title, to succeed they have to prove continuous and exclusive use of the area since 1840. This test will be impossible for many Iwi and Hapu to meet, due to previous injustices of the Crown against them and their tolerance of public use;
  • An illusion of due process is being offered, and problems are compounded with the introduction of a time frame of six years to lodge claims to customary rights or title
  • Although Iwi and Hapu can negotiate directly with the Crown, they still have to prove continuous and exclusive use of customary rights since 1840.
  • This Bill discriminates against Maori, and privileges the many foreign owners who maintain their rights to exclude public access to beach and foreshore.

The purpose of this letter is to express our opposition to this new Bill. We ask that the Maori Party makes a stronger stand to represent our peoples right to equity and justice.

At the branch level we struggle to attract and retain people to assist with electorate campaigning and fundraising. We have already had a number of members leave as a result of the Maori Partys support of this Bill, and we fear that many more will do so if the support continues. This will make the task of getting Rahui Katene re-elected an even more difficult one.

We also fear that should the Maori Party not take a stronger stand on this Bill and support our peoples rights, large numbers of our members will be disillusioned by our party leaders and the party in general, and will in turn refuse to support us at the polls in 2011. We do not want to see our peoples dream for an independent Maori voice in Parliament die on the very issue that got us in there. This would be an almost unbearable tragedy.

Noho ora mai
Roimata Tauroa
Secretary
Te Upoko o Te Ika Branch
Maori Party

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