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David Round

A crime against the public

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For the last couple of weeks we have been expecting the appearance of the government’s draft foreshore and seabed bill. Usually reliable rumours told us that it would be going to the Cabinet in the last week or two, and would then be introduced to the House. For some reason there has been a delay, and rumour has it that it may be another couple of weeks at least before it is introduced. I know not what the reason may be. It would be nice to think that the government is actually coming to its senses, that the Prime Minister and Attorney-General are actually beginning to realise what a monstrous crime they are proposing to commit, and what the public reaction will be to this theft of our common heritage and solemn recognition that New Zealand is henceforward and increasingly an apartheid state[1].

Perhaps the government’s economic advisors are starting to point out the horrific sacrifice of public property and public prosperity, or perhaps their legal advisors are finding complications. Who knows? Perhaps there is cause for hope. Perhaps not. But if the government intends to go through with this, then, barring a back-bench National revolt, it will enjoy the support of the National and Maori parties, and therefore has a good chance of becoming law. I imagine the Greens, who should surely be renamed the Browns, might support it; if they oppose it, it will probably be because they will be whining that it does not go far enough. (I believe the suggestion has already been made that Maori should be entitled to everything out to the 200 mile limit, not just twelve miles.) As for Labour, I live far from Wellington gossip, but I did hear someone, certainly not an authoritative voice, say a couple of weeks ago that even Labour might support this bill (and therefore the repeal of its own Foreshore and Seabed Act, the current law). Who knows? But National and the Maori Party can get it through without any help from anyone else.

There is only one way in which it will be stopped, and that is by a very strong and angry ~ very strong and angry ~ reaction by the public. I must admit, of course, that, just like everyone else, I have not yet seen the draft legislation. But we have seen the government’s proposals and we have heard the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister, so that surely gives us something to go on. You have read half a dozen columns of mine already on the proposals, and I shall not repeat myself here. Suffice it to say that on the arguments I have previously put forward, the government’s foreshore and seabed proposal, if it is what we are told to expect, will mark the doom of New Zealand . In times to come we shall call down curses on the smug spineless short-sighted imbeciles and their Greek chorus of self-righteous well-off holier-than-thou racial masochists for the blight they brought upon the land.

‘Now hang on, old fellow,’ I hear you say, ‘aren’t you going a bit O.T.T. (over the top) here? Righto, it’s bad, I agree, but is it that bad?‘ Yes, actually I think it is. I shall explain.

For a start, we must understand that once this becomes law, then for all practical purposes it can never be repealed. This new law will be the most indescribable gift to Maori of an enormous part of the remaining public property and public wealth of this country. It will deprive the rest of us of any possibility of enjoying the immense economic opportunities which the sea affords and which, heaven knows, we so desperately need. But if any politician in future even thought of repealing it, the screams of theft and racism, the hakas, protests, hikois, complaints to the United Nations, threats of civil disobedience, actual violence, rallies in Parliament grounds, emetic postulations of Joris de Bres and the rest would end that politician’s career instantly. The lawyers would weigh in, and Maori can afford the best now. It just will not happen. Once we are saddled with this law we have got it for good.

Or it might be more accurate to say, we have got it until something worse comes along. Because we must understand too that even this act of suicidal renunciation is not going to bring peace to this country, is not going to end Maori clamour for yet more and more, and indeed will not even be the last word on the foreshore and seabed.

Just on the foreshore and seabed first of all ~ several things. For one thing, this new customary title is going to be granted if it can be established according to ‘Maori tikanga’. Now this tikanga is known to Maori alone. They have it ~ or say they have it. They do not give us any details. If they do not have it, they invent it. We will never know. The introduction of tikanga alone is the handing-over of a blank cheque. You can bet your bottom dollar that a surprising amount of the coastline will be considered by Maori ‘to be ours now, really. I mean, we let people go there, and we don’t stop them or say anything to them, but we always feel, you know, its our beach, that’s just our tikanga’ ~ and he’ll keep a straight face, and the whole thing will be in the bag. In response to questions, both the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General are already refusing to say categorically that even popular Auckland beaches (certainly not ones ‘exclusively occupied’ by Maori) will not have customary title awarded over them.

Bear in mind too, that by this new law this customary title may be granted ~ ‘recognised’ is the term they will want us to use, but we would say ‘given’ ~ simply after private discussions with the Minister of Treaty Settlements. There need not be any judicial scrutiny or public consideration and debate. There can be a claim made before the courts, but claims may also be sorted out, and title awarded, just after private negotiations with the Minister; and the current Attorney-General and Minister of Treaty Settlements has told us that that would be the preferable course of action. And so, without any public scrutiny or input, the public will be betrayed time and time again by politicians who just want to do deals with the Maori Party for support on other things. Already, it is politically impossible to have anyone but a Maori as Minister of Maori Affairs. Ministers of Treaty Settlements, at least, have tended to be white men. But a Minister of any race is going to be increasingly intimidated by further demands. What if a Minister went astray? What if a Maori became Minister of Treaty Settlements? Could we ~ to put it bluntly ~ be certain where his or her first loyalties lie ~ to the people of New Zealand or to his own race? Quite a few Maori Party Members of Parliament have already declared more or less openly that their first loyalty ~ and indeed probably just about their only loyalty ~ is to their own people rather than their country. All Maori Members of Parliament, whatever Party they may belong to, ‘caucus’ regularly now. What will they do in future?

Bear in mind also that even this law will not be the last word on the foreshore and seabed. The claims, for a start, will not be made all at once, although quite a few tribes are certainly getting ready to bring claims the moment the starter’s gun is fired.[2] And then there will be later amendments ~ certain things spelt out more clearly than they were originally. And bear in mind, finally in the present list, that the government is proposing something else, something not even in its own suave discussion document ~ that absolutely all foreshore and seabed around the country will be the subject of ‘universal recognitions’, which will somehow (I cannot be precise, for, as I say, this was not part of the government’s own proposal in the discussion document) recognise Maori ownership of all of it in 1840. Although it has been alleged that this recognition will have no legal status and be legally meaningless, being nothing but an historical record, we can rest assured that, whether immediately or at some future time, it will be discovered to give Maori more.

And what we are giving to Maori here is the foreshore and seabed, the coastline of out wonderful country, the place where we have had some of the happiest moments of our lives, the place, surely, if there is any place, where we can all meet as equals, the place that defines so much of our understanding of ‘what it means to be a New Zealander’, to use a hackneyed but true phrase. The beach is part of us, in a way even that the bush is not. James K Baxter, if you will forgive a moment of ribaldry, said that the tree lupin should be our national flower ~ because most of us were conceived under them. Over an enormous part of this area, perhaps all of it, the way will be laid open for Maori ownership, and bit by bit, in little nibbles or big bites, it will happen. Maori will obtain ownership rights ~ ‘customary title’ is a form of ownership ~ and even if they do not theoretically own some things ~ the trillion dollars worth of ironsands, for example ~ they will still have immense influence on any proposal for anything. Undersea cables, marine farms, tidal power, airspace, all sorts of minerals…..Customary owners will have a veto on all Resource Management Act proposals for or near their coastline. Boat ramps, whitebait stands, jetties, anything…And if, somehow, Maori do not get something this time round they’ll just keep working on it, like the sea nibbling away at the shore. Be certain of this too, that even this will not be the end of the foreshore and seabed giveaway.

We can put money on it that universal recognition will turn out, a few years down the track, to be rather fuller than it was originally understood to be. (How surprising!) It will turn out that although we may have thought that universal recognition was allegedly just a formal recognition of pre-1840 ownership, it does give iwi certain rights… The foreshore and seabed deal, if properly handled, will guarantee tribal elites a long-term future clipping the ticket on everything that goes on, and will keep them in the luxury to which they are rapidly becoming accustomed. This proposal will be as momentous in its consequences as the enclosures of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, by which the common property of the Middle Ages was privatised for the benefit of the few; and once it becomes law, it will, for all practical purposes, be irretrievable.

But even that aside ~ I know I have said this before but think, for heaven’s sake think about the last twenty-five years. Think about human nature, and think about politics and Maori in this country. Has the decency and incredible generosity of New Zealanders[3] been met even with any gratitude, let alone any sense that now that a bit of unpleasantness about Treaty claims is over we can all get on with life? Have we heard any claimants actually say ‘Thank you’? I have not. But I have already heard quite a few Maori saying that any Treaty settlement can only be for one generation. Binding future generations is ‘not the Maori way’. (In that case, how are we bound by a treaty signed in 1840?) Claimants will be back sooner or later for another attempt to obtain a remedy for the alleged festering sore of centuries old injustices….. The promises we have been fed in the past, by both Maori and politicians, that after a few years settling Treaty grievances we could all put the past behind us and move forward together as New Zealanders ~ these promises were clearly lies, and the people who made them were liars.

I shall continue next week, but just a couple of final points. One is to marvel at the effrontery, the sheer naked insolence, of those who favour handing foreshore and seabed over to one race, and yet who call those of us who believe that it should remain the property of us all ‘racist’. Can you understand this? It is amazing, isn’t it? We are unkind about lawyers, from time to time, their supposed habit of twisting words and proving that black is white and white black…..lawyers have nothing on these people. To be honest, I think the explanation often is not so much effrontery as plain stupidity; aided, of course, but large dollops of smug self-satisfaction. They are, most of them, strangers to genuine thought, most certainly strangers to common sense.

Finally ~ I spoke at the beginning of the Prime Minister’s and Attorney-General’s crime. I remember Napoleon’s cynical words ~ ‘It is worse than a crime ~ it is a blunder’. Even from the narrowest perspective of self-interest, I cannot see that this deal is going to do the National Party the slightest bit of good. New Zealander voters will be deserting the party in droves, and hardly surprisingly. The Prime Minister may want to forge a long-term relationship with the Maori Party ~ it is perfectly possible that after the next election National will not be in any position to negotiate a government. Wait and see. I do not guarantee it, but pride cometh before a fall. Stranger things have happened. And in any case ~ does the Maori party strike you as a party of honourable men and women who will show proper gratitude and respect for everything National has done for them? Pull the other one. They have but one principle, they have told us already, the advancement of the interests of their own race, and to hell with the rest of us. They will abandon National at the drop of a hat. And why, last of all, apart from reasons of utter self-interest and the forsaking of all principle and decency, why would National even want a long-term alliance with the Maori party? After the retirement of the Maori Party’s present leaders it seems highly likely that its new leader will be that rampant racist Hone Harawira ~ he who does not want any white boys near his daughters, and who is unrepentant in describing us as white motherfuckers. An ugly word, I am sorry, but I have to remind you. He is talking about you, reader. An ugly word from an ugly mouth. (But the Attorney-General thinks he is ‘wonderful’.) Harawira seems to enjoy the support of Maori Party voters. This is the man, and the party, with whom National desires a long-term alliance, and is prepared to sell its soul to achieve it. What weird drugs is the National Party on?

[1] In South Africa under apartheid, non-white persons were forbidden certain beaches. If this goes ahead, non-Maori will be forbidden them here ~ in the absence of koha, anyway.
[2] I understand that Ngati Porou, for example, has already announced that it will be seeking customary title to most of the East Coast.
[3] Since many Maori clearly do not want to be part of the same nation as the rest of us, my new usage is to use ‘New Zealanders’ to refer just to us. This is reasonable, surely? It avoids the mouthful of ‘European and Asian and everyone else New Zealanders’ in contrast to Maori.