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Report on foreshore and seabed meeting

4 December 2003

Kia ora tatou,

I have just come from a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister (Dr Michael Cullen), Minister of Maori Affairs (Parekura Horomia) and MP for Tamaki Makaurau (John Tamihere). I attended with other iwi representatives who make up Te Ope Mana a Tai. Cullen briefed us on the foreshores and seabed policy that the government will formally announce on 17 December. Iwi represented today were Ngati Kahu, Te Rarawa, Ngati Whatua, Ngati Wai, Tainui, Taranaki, Ngai Tamanuhiri, Wanganui and Te Tau Ihu o te Waka a Maui.

In brief, the government has taken virtually no notice of Maori outrage at and rejection of their proposals for the foreshore and seabed and intends to proceed with them regardless of repeated warnings not to do so.

Cullen reported that despite attempts by Te Ope Mana a Tai to prevent the government extinguishing Maori customary rights in the foreshore and seabed, the government has decided that it will legislate to prevent Maori ownership being recognized and will, as threatened, introduce legislation that will vest our foreshore and seabed in the people of New Zealand, with complete authority and control to be exercised by the Crown. Iwi representatives pointed out repeatedly that this amounts to theft or confiscation of our takutai moana from us but Cullen refused to acknowledge that this is the case.

The government's proposed legislation removes Maori rights, confirmed by the Court of Appeal, to have our ownership recognized in the Maori Land Court. Despite the 15 years it took to produce Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, they intend to amend it to remove the rights to issue fee simple title over the foreshore and seabed. The government has chosen to follow the Australian model which is well-known as the most punitive of indigenous rights and is an openly racist scheme. And so those who already have title to the foreshore and seabed issued under the Land Transfer Act will not have their ownership rights extinguished (presumably because it is a Pakeha right). Under the proposed legislation the only recognition Maori will have is that a whanau, hapu or iwi can apply to a special commission for customary title that will have their mana whenua over a particular area, as determined by tikanga, listed in the Maori Land Court. However there will be virtually no rights attached to that customary title and, from what Cullen said today, it will be almost meaningless.

Any specific customary right or activity a whanau or hapu may wish to retain must be one of the rights that the legislation will allow (such as collecting pipi, or hangi stones (Horomia's rather odd example)), and the whanau or hapu must prove that they have practiced that custom continuously and have never stopped doing it. Those rights will not be determined according to tikanga, but by Pakeha political wishes which will determine the criteria that Maori customary rights must meet before they can be recognised. So, for example, Cabinet has already decided that those rights cannot include any development, or any commercial activity, even if that has been a customary use exercised by a whanau or hapu. Furthermore, if it is an iwi that holds the customary title for an area, then any whanau or hapu that wants a specific right listed will have to have it registered at a subsidiary level to that of the iwi. All applications will be published and only proceed through the process quickly if there are no objections.

In terms of regulating and allocating use of the foreshore and the seabed, the government has decided that the only change it will make to the Resource Management Act is to allow the setting up of local authority committees, which will include up to 50% Maori membership, to consider allocations. However following discussions with the Local Government Association, the government will ensure that these committees will be advisory only. The legislation will only recognize local authorities as having decision-making powers over our takutai moana. Mana whenua decision-making powers will not be recognized. The government will, however, set up a working party to make suggestions on how the so-called "partnership" between Maori and the Crown can be given better recognition in local government. The way Cullen described it, the working party is likely to be a waste of time.

Individual members of Te Ope Mana a Tai made their disappointment and disgust very plain to the three cabinet ministers. John Tamihere seemed to support Cullen but came under severe criticism from the iwi representatives. Horomia first tried beating us down, then pleading, then looking very worried. All in all it was a most unsatisfactory meeting and there seemed little likelihood of any improvement on the current situation. Cullen indicated he might ask to meet again although Te Ope Mana a Tai will be thinking carefully about whether there is any point to further meetings.

Cullen meets with Ngati Porou tomorrow who will be taking a very firm line about full and proper recognition of their mana tipuna. They will take Cullen round their takutai moana and make it very clear that if he does extinguish their customary rights, then he will do so knowing full well what the current situation is, and therefore, the likely consequences of such an action. (Ngati Porou still own 90% of the lands adjacent to the foreshore and seabed in their rohe.) Hauraki is meeting with the Prime Minister's officials but has no faith that their wishes will be listened to.

The meeting today came at the end of a long series of meetings that Te Ope Mana a Tai has had with both bureaucrats from the Prime Minister's department and with Cabinet ministers. Members of Te Ope Mana a Tai went into these meetings in good faith and put in huge amounts of time, energy and work in preparation for them believing that the government would also act in good faith and with integrity. This meeting has indicated that there is no good faith at all on the government's part.

Margaret Mutu.

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