(NZ Herald, Photo Courtesy of Sina Brown-Davis) A 300-strong hikoi marched on Parliament today to lay to rest the foreshore and seabed legislation and its replacement, along with the Maori Party logo.
Weeping and walking slowly in the manner of a funeral procession, the hikoi left Te Papa and arrived at Parliament just after midday to be met by several MPs including Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei, Labour’s Shane Jones and Parekura Horomia, and independent MP Hone Harawira.
The protesters laid down the New Zealand flag alongside a flag of the Maori Party logo, together with the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act and its replacement, the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, in a tangi (funeral service).
Amid signs saying “Betrayed by our own” and “Takutai Moana: Racist legislation”, several kaumatua rose to give spirited speeches, lambasting the Maori Party and parliament’s Maori MPs for failing Maori people.
The tangi was wrapped up together and laid to rest on parliament’s steps. National Party MP Tau Henare collected it and took it into parliament.
Afterwards, Mr Harawira said he had been moved by the hikoi, even though it was a fraction of the size of the 20,000-strong hikoi that protested against the 2004 legislation.
“I would expect even my erstwhile colleagues in the Maori Party [would have felt] a sense of the pain in the gathering today.”
Mr Harawira said the tangi was held to “return the pain”.
“They were laying down the Maori Party flag, I think, because they had a sense it was the Maori Party that was here in 2004, but sadly the Maori Party is also party to this bill. They were laying down the NZ flag on top of the Maori flag to remind us how dominating, still, that is.
“They were laying down those acts because those brought pain to Maoridom right across the country.”
He said the smaller numbers of the hikoi could be because it was hard for Maori to march against Maori.
Mr Finlayson described the hikoi as very respectful, and “very small”.
It would not make a difference to the bill, he said, which is going through its committee stages and is expected to pass by the end of the week.
The bill would place the foreshore and seabed – except what was already in private ownership – into the public domain that could never be sold, and would guarantee free public access.
Maori could claim customary title by proving exclusive use and occupation since 1840, and if they did so, they would then have certain property rights.
When asked what he got out of the hikoi, Mr Finlayson said: “I got wet”.
Mr Harawira said Mr Finlayson did not understand Maori.
“He has no interest in Maori tikanga (customs), he has no interest in Maori kaupapa (concepts and principles).”
Earlier, Mrs Turei revealed Justice Ministry advice that said the bill created a double standard, because it excluded the parts of the foreshore and seabed that were already privately owned.
“National’s foreshore bill does nothing to change the status of the 12,500 existing private titles in the foreshore and seabed. This is unfair and creates a double standard which treats Maori rights as inferior,” Mrs Turei said.
Mr Finlayson said both the current and former Governments made a decision to interfere with the rights of the 12,500 private titles along the coast.
“It’s the old principle of two wrongs don’t make a right, and nationalising the foreshore and seabed on those titles would be the wrong thing to do.”