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A submission on 'Government Proposals for Consultation: The Foreshore and Seabed of New Zealand' from WILPF.

The Aotearoa Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has three branches in Aotearoa. We are a mainly Pakeha/Tauiwi organisation but we do have some Maori members who are involved in our activities and support our aims. WILPF nationally and internationally supports issues of justice and indigenous rights. We believe that it is not possible to have a peaceful world when there is injustice, oppression, exploitation and inequality.

We are concerned that the process that is being pursued by the government, in relation to the foreshore and seabed is inappropriate and contrary to the agreement made with hapu and iwi in the Treaty of Waitangi. It is a clear breach of Article II of the Treaty which affirms to Maori the tino rangatiratanga of their lands, their possessions and everything they hold precious. Therefore we feel that the government needs to listen to and negotiate with Maori, as equal parties to the Treaty, as the best way forward in dealing with this issue.

We are also very concerned about the perception that has been created, that Maori are the cause of the problem, when it appears to us that the reaction of the government to the Court of Appeal finding has created the anxiety which has arisen among both Maori and non-Maori, and has also caused a considerable ill-informed backlash.

The hui that have been held as part of the supposed consultation process, have revived for Maori the long and painful history of land confiscations and loss. There does not seem to be any better understanding amongst the Crown negotiators, and other politicians, even after all the Waitangi Tribunal findings of the effects on us all of the history of colonisation.

The proposal to legislate is discriminatory because the Crown has allowed the sale of land adjacent to the foreshore and seabed to private and foreign ownership in the past and often in these cases everyone is denied access. Hapu and iwi have not, on the whole, denied access to others, and have indeed stated that they too are concerned about privatising ownership because they will then be denied their rights of customary title and kaitiakitanga.

If legislation based on the proposals is introduced, a massive injustice will have been perpetrated and a source of substantial conflict and merited grievance into the future will have been created. Why should private owners be offered possible compensation, while hapu and iwi are offered confiscation and extinguishment of customary title?

On the other hand, if the government choose to pursue an alternative process, having listened to suggested ways forward which have been presented at the various consultation hui, there could be a very positive outcome for all New Zealanders. Different Iwi and Hapu have suggested ways forward for their particular rohe which would be consistent with tangata whenua law and tikanga. Obviously tangata whenua law and tikanga are not for the Crown to define, but bearing that in mind, the negotiation of covenants of access of non-saleability in each rohe would be an extremely productive way to move into the future.

This is an ideal opportunity to set up a negotiating process that works within a broad-based process of constitutional change in which the government negotiates with tangata whenua as equal parties to the Treaty of Waitangi

We urge the government not to rush through legislation when a much better and fairer outcome could be achieved by spending more time reflecting and negotiating. Our hope is that good sense will prevail.

The misunderstandings that have arisen over this issue highlight once again the need for a much more comprehensive education programme about the Treaty of Waitangi and the history of the colonisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand. This is a great opportunity to use the funds the government has set aside for this purpose.

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Aotearoa)
1 October 2003

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