Letter to Michael Cullen
26 November 2003
Hon Dr M Cullen,
Re Government policy on foreshore and seabed lands
Dear Dr Cullen,
I am aware that, following various consultation processes, the Government is now moving towards the final stages of policy development in relation to foreshore and seabed lands. There have been some public hints that the Government is searching for ways to accommodate Maori customary rights in a new statutory regime. It is my impression, nevertheless, that the Government still intends to assert some form of public domain or overriding control by the Crown and still intends to introduce a Bill to that effect in the House early next year. This proposal raises the fundamental issue of the Treaty of Waitangi: What is the proper relationship between the kawanatanga powers of article one and the rangatiratanga guarantees to Maori in article two?
In my view that there is too much haste in asserting kawanatanga powers to legislate and too little concern for the land guarantees to Maori. In choosing to legislate prior to any Maori Land Court decision on the actual scope of customary entitlements, there is the likelihood - indeed near certainty - that customary rights will be abridged. To the extent that they are abridged, then a confiscation will take place. Your own training is as an historian. I am sure that you would not wish to be remembered in times to come as the Crown's raupatu man in 2004.
It surely makes sense to allow at least one or more of the claimants represented by Te Ope Mana a Tai to have their day in the Land Court. Then the Government will know what needs to be discussed, and what needs to the subject of compensatory mechanisms for an abridgement of customary entitlements. At present the Government is working in the dark as to the actual rights to the foreshore and seabed lands. Your December announcement should be that you do not wish to effect a raupatu and that you will wait for due process of law before legislating.