May 8, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Environment Protection Authority

6 min read

Mr Speaker, it is with great pleasure unlike Labour , ACT and Green Parties that I stand in support of this third and final reading of the Environment Protection Authority Bill.

Less than a week ago I successfully negotiated the inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi clause into this Bill, and the emails of jubilation are still coming in.

Unfortunately we have received no emails of congratulations from the Labour , ACT and Green Parties. Maybe the Labour Party werent happy because Charles Chauvels Treaty clause was rejected by the House.

The Maori Party has a deep commitment to assisting whanau, hapu and iwi, as tangata tiaki to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the wellbeing and future good health of the environment.

Kaitiakitanga the active protection of our resources, our flora and fauna, is essential to Maori worldviews. It is also fundamental to Treaty jurisprudence.

For what the promise of the Treaty gave us, was to ensure that the Crown would take an active role in protecting the things regarded by Maori as taonga.

As articulated in Article II of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Crown has an obligation to protect Maori land for use by Maori for as long as Maori wish.

The wording of the suite of legislation covered under the Environment Protection Bill now includes the statement:

“recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the Treaty of Waitangi”.

I want to break this down in terms of the significance of this amendment.

The Environmental Protection Authority monitors and enforces environmental protection processes under the Resource Management Act.

With this amendment, anyone acting on its behalf must “recognize and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the Treaty of Waitangi”.

The Environmental Protection Authority is designed to provide stronger central government leadership on environmental issues.

With this Treaty clause now in place, that leadership is about recognising and respecting the Crowns responsibility to take appropriate account of the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

That will mean a direct commitment towards maintaining and improving opportunities for Maori to contribute to decision-making processes within the Environment Protection sector.

As a result of Maori Party advocacy over many months, we have been able to ensure that at least one of the six members on the Environment Protection Board must have knowledge and skills relating to the Treaty and to tikanga Maori.

This does not preclude more than one Maori candidate being appointed of course, and we will be keen to support that possibility.

There will also be a Maori advisory committee established as part of the Authority, to provide assistance and advice to the Board on matters that come up from a Maori perspective.

This is similar to Nga Kaihautu Tikanga Taiao which currently operates within the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

I want to make it quite clear, of course, that the establishment of the Environment Protection Authority will not prevent iwi from having a direct relationship with the Crown on policy and other strategic matters related to natural resources.

What our Treaty clause also does, is to highlight and promote the significance of Treaty provisions throughout the various component parts of related legislation.

To take three examples as a case in point.

In the Resource Management Act, section 8 of that Act requires that all persons exercising functions and powers under it in relation to managing the use, development and protection of natural and physical resources, shall take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

In the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, there is a similar section 8, requiring again that all persons exercising powers and functions under this Act shall take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

While in the Climate Change Response Act 2002 there is specific provision for the Minister to consult representatives of iwi and Maori or to be satisfied that their chief executive will have consulted on their behalf.

Mr Speaker, the acceptance into law of our treaty clause is a triumph for environmental protection; and for the Maori Party.

Another unique aspect of this achievement, is that the Environmental Protection Authority is a regulation authority it doesnt generate policy as such. As the Minister has outlined, the Authority is an independent body concerned with “enforcement of regulation”.

The Treaty clause, therefore, requires the Authority to enforce regulation that in some cases are already subject to treaty clauses – for example Climate Change Response Act 2002, Conservation Act 1987, Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, Resource Management Act 1991, Crown Minerals Act 1991, Fisheries Act 1996 have treaty clauses already and are effectively carried over into these new regulations.

What we have envisaged is that both the process and substantive decision making of bodies in the legislation give due and reasonable weight to the special relationship Maori have as tangata tiaki of the environment pursuant to Article II of The Treaty.

Iwi had the distinct preference that the Environment Protection Authority be established as a standalone crown entity. The Government has agreed to proceed with the EPA as a stand alone Crown agency, and to appoint a statutory Maori advisory committee alongside.

Mr Speaker, I have taken the time to travel through the impact of Maori Party influence upon this legislation and in particular the provision it accords to giving effect to the principles of the Treaty.

But what we cannot fathom, is the fact that Mr Harawira and the Greens have forged an unlikely alliance with the ACT party in voting against the Treaty clause.

This morning we learnt that the sole reason that the ACT Party is voting against the Environment Protection Authority Bill is because of my amendment to include recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi in this legislation.

I guess one could say the true colours of that party are revealed when the very foundations of our nationhood the basis by which tangata whenua and other New Zealanders live together in this land is the reason why that party would oppose this Bill.

But the opposition of other parties and in particular the Greens, Labour, and Mr Harawira is surprising and disappointing.

It was a complete shock that the Greens, renegged on earlier commitments, by opposing my amendment.

And it is hard to fathom why the member from Te Tai Tokerau whom I understand has just resigned – would vote against the sacred covenant signed at Waitangi some 171 years ago.

At the end of the day, each of these parties will be accountable to their membership and so we leave it in their hands to ask the inevitable questions as to why.

But for the Maori Party, we say loud and proud, that we stand by our work to recognise and respect the Crowns responsibility to take appropriate account of the Treaty of Waitangi.

I want to finish by congratulating Dr Smith, and acknowledging his consistent efforts to work alongside the Maori Party, in developing the model of the Environment Protection Authority.

Dr Smith and his advisors have spent many months producing A3 charts; policy papers, proposals to respond to the many questions we have put forward about how to ensure both effective Maori representation, a commitment to iwi engagement and respect for the knowledge and experience of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

He has taken the time to listen to our concerns regarding the importance of Maori environmental committees, advisory boards and governance groups currently operating. He has also agreed with our advocacy to safeguard a credible and respectful process for Crown Maori engagement on natural resources and environmental management.

Ultimately, caring for our environment is one of the greatest opportunities we have to uphold our responsibilities for the spiritual and cultural guardianship of Te Ao Marama.

We are pleased to support this Bill.

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