Bill is one small step in a long journey

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‘Bill is one small step in a long journey’

Hon Tariana Turia, MP for Te Tai Hauauru

In the past week there has been a lot of information including a substantial amount of misinformation about the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill.

Rather than adding to the noise I want to instead focus on the positive outcomes that there will be for all New Zealanders, and in particular the significance of this Bill for tangata whenua.

The Bill addresses two fundamental rights violated by the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act the right to access justice through the courts, and property rights. If negotiations with Ministers do not reach agreement, tangata whenua can take their title claims to court.

Following the select committee process, the Attorney General will be recommending that the House amends the Bill to require any recognition of customary title through negotiated agreement be given effect through legislation. This means that every such agreement will be subject to full Parliamentary and public scrutiny. This will dispel any concerns about future governments doing shoddy deals.

The Bill abolishes Crown title and recognises customary interests (mana tuku iho) of all coastal iwi. Customary interests include a right to protect wahi tapu; and a right to be consulted on conservation and resource management.

The Bill allows iwi to claim customary title. Customary title is a property right that includes customary interests plus all minerals except gold, silver, uranium and petroleum; all newly found taonga tuturu, development rights, and a right to develop a plan which regional councils must recognise and provide for.

This Bill transfers the burden of proof, so the Crown has to prove customary rights were extinguished, rather than iwi having to prove they were not.

It sets new threshold tests for customary title, unlike the 2004 Act. The tests incorporate tikanga, allowing for variations among iwi, transfers of rights between hapu, and for tikanga to evolve. For example, allowing others to fish, and overlapping rights of neighbouring hapu, will not disqualify claims (manaakitanga is part of tikanga). Spiritual or cultural associations, as well as traditional usage, are also parts of the test.

The tests do NOT require claimants to own adjoining land (so raupatu iwi can claim customary title).

To support claimants in their applications, the Crown will provide funding in a manner similar to how claimant funding is provided in the Treaty settlement negotiations process.

We believe that to turn our back on this Bill, would be to break the promise we made to our people in 2005 that the Maori Party would repeal the 2004 Act. If the Bill isnt passed, the law that deprived our people of their day in court, of their mana moana, will remain in force. Is this what the people want? Is this why we marched?

The Bill does not settle the issues, but it keeps them alive. It is our contention that the Maori Party can advocate for customary rights and tikanga in the Bill, but only tangata whenua can negotiate and settle matters of mana and rangatiratanga.

Iwi accept that in their treaty settlement negotiations they will likely receive between one and three percent of what was originally taken. Given this, it seems unrealistic to expect a political party of five to get back everything taken through the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act.

We know that the Bill does not give us everything we wanted, but it is a step forward. It reopens the door that was slammed shut in 2004.

For me its simple do we take a step forward, knowing this is but one small step on a long journey?

Or do we withdraw to the sidelines, and wait for another day, risking all our hopes on a possibility that Labour or National will want to have another go, somewhere along the line. I cant take that chance our progress and our development is too important to put on hold.

1 COMMENT

  1. I don't see what this bill does for Maori living and using beaches outside their original tribal areas, or for Maori who don't affiliate to a tribe. The first group may get income from mineral rights but on that basis they should lose their right to a share in any income from minerals on the seabeds of the rest of the country. This is an opportunistic attempt to take over what has been recognised for generations as belonging to all the people of New Zealand and I hope the bill will fail to pass.

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