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Dr Muriel Newman

A Call to Action

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Extract from an interview between the Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson and TV3’s Duncan Garner:

DUNCAN: What is customary title?

CHRIS: There is absolutely no law on customary title in New Zealand, it’s a very vague concept, so what we’re saying is it’s a constrained form of property right… a title could be issued under this legislation, and there’ll be rights to develop and so on…

DUNCAN: So would it allow for instance an iwi with a customary title say in the Bay of Plenty to do a partnership deal with if you like the Chinese government who come forward with a 100 million dollars and say we want to build a number of resorts on your land, lease it to us over 100 years, would Maori with customary title and iwi be able to get away with that?

CHRIS: Oh yes but they’d be subject to the Resource Management Act and subject to the other if you like general pieces of legislation, it’s not proposed that this would be a sort of a self governing entity once it was established, so any kind of development would be subject to the usual RMA principles.

DUNCAN: Yeah but what you’re saying is it’s a yes because the Maori have in your report major rights of veto, and if they can go in and do a deal with a foreign government or a foreign entity who has the money to develop, then what you’re arguing today is, yes that could happen?

CHRIS: Yeah and of course there’s the Overseas Investment Commission and those sorts of requirements as well.

DUNCAN: I just want to look at mining if we can, I mean that 2004 Foreshore and Seabed law that Labour brought in, basically vested minerals in the Crown. If you are entirely going to repeal, why don’t you effectively look at that area because Maori would like minerals wouldn’t they, they would like to look at those minerals, yet if you repeal you want to hold on to the right that the Crown owns the minerals don’t you?

CHRIS: Oh I’m saying that I can rule out petroleum, uranium, silver and gold, I’m prepared to listen to other people on those other minerals.[1]

It is crystal clear from the responses of the Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, to questions posed by TV3’s Duncan Garner on “The Nation” on 10 April 2010 that National has no concerns about opening up New Zealand’s foreshore and seabed to Maori development and mining. While the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, which vests ownership of the foreshore and seabed in the Crown, currently protects New Zealand’s coastline from exploitation by Maori or anyone else for that matter, National intends to give Maori defacto sovereignty rights over the foreshore and seabed – rights that will give them status above New Zealand’s Parliament.

John Key has stated very clearly that the existing foreshore and seabed legislation will remain in place if there is not widespread support for their proposed law change. New Zealanders have just 10 days left to send John Key and his caucus a decisive message that we do not want the law to be changed.

It is now up to the Prime Minister to bring Minister Finlayson to heel but he will only do so if large numbers of people express outrage at what is being proposed in the Government’s new law. Unfortunately little is known about the effects of the legislation and the extremely short consultation period and token list of public meetings is clearly designed for that end.

The foreshore and seabed provides a lucrative opportunity for any Maori. The area at stake stretches out to the 12 nautical mile limit and includes the airspace above and the bedrock below the sea, as well the beds of tidal rivers that are part of the coastal marine environment. This means that in addition to the development and mining already signaled by Chris Finlayson, there will no doubt be opportunities for charging commercial operators for the use of the sea and the airspace. Further, we can expect to see a rapid growth in the sort of outrageous legalized corruption that will be associated with Maori having the right of veto over projects within their territorial area – with no rights of appeal!

The stark truth is that under this proposed legislation defacto sovereign rights over the foreshore and seabed can be granted to Maori at the whim of the current (or future) Minister of Treaty Negotiations! Those rights will grant Maori interest groups a virtual absolute and unfettered ability to use the foreshore and seabed in whatever manner they wish, without being subject to the normal checks and balances that are imposed upon others.

It is likely, for example that Maori could develop fish farms on the most pristine parts of our coast, without having to go through the normal consent process and without the public having a chance to have their say on the matter! Coastal communities should be marching in the streets about this threat. Likewise the marine industry should be very alarmed as they, along with taxpayers, are likely to face claims for “compensation”, based on historical and future wealth denied.

In fact, at a time when an end is finally in sight for historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, the proposed legislation will open up a whole new frontier for the Maori grievance industry to exploit.

The reality is that the only groups who are agitating for a change to the law are activists within Maoridom. They know only too well the vast and perpetual wealth that is at stake. It is bizarre that the National Party appears determined to go to any lengths to satisfy their demands – even if it means trampling over the rights and trust of non-Maori New Zealanders. These Maori agitators have the ear of government, which is why in the Review document Chris Finlayson says, “Significant numbers of New Zealanders have complained and continue to complain that the 2004 Act is unfair and discriminatory.” He was speaking on behalf of Maori Party supporters, not New Zealanders as a whole. We should be clear about that.

Since the election, with the repeal of the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act being a priority for the Maori Party and the review of the legislation being a key part of their Confidence and Supply agreement with National, the Government has worked closely with Maori over the proposed changes to foreshore and seabed legislation. A high-powered iwi liaison group was established early on in the process, to ensure that Maori groups were kept well informed. Non-Maori in comparison have been excluded from such discussions and purposely left in the dark.

This week’s Guest Commentator, Michael Coote, who is a regular columnist for the National Business Review, has some strong words about the whole process. In his article Revisiting the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, he states:

“Prime minister John Key for one keeps deliberately trivialising what the foreshore and seabed is all about by cynically rabbiting on about Kiwis retaining the right to walk along the beach and cook up a barbie there. He knows better, but “Slippery John” – an apt nickname from the Labour Party – does not want the political inconvenience of the broader New Zealand public becoming aware of and engaging with what the real issues are.

“Maori tribes and Mr Key’s own government know only too well, as does the racist Maori Party and its behind-the-scenes Maori sovereignty string pullers. For Maori the foreshore and seabed brouhaha is about racially privileged gold digging at the expense of the rest of New Zealand society.”

Many New Zealanders, who have read the review document, have been shocked by what is being proposed. They feel betrayed by the National Party that campaigned so vigorously in opposition against Maori privilege.

As Michael Coote puts it in his article, “Oddly enough, many paid-up members of the National Party would not buy into this Maori racial supremacist hijack if they understood it for what it was, but then the rank-and-file National Party membership is largely comprised of mushrooms fed manure and kept in the dark”.

As a result of the Government’s “consultation” strategy, most people are totally unaware of the profound nature of the radical changes being proposed. Many of those who have tried to read the government’s consultation document have found it extremely confusing.[2] It is full of undefined legal constructs and Maori expressions, vague terminology, and it lacks definition on matters of crucial public importance such as the future of roads, leases and licenses that all fall within areas that will be subject to Maori claims.

In addition, the official submission form is not only long and complicated, but has been designed to make it look like every submitter is in favour of the general thrust of the Government’s proposals. As a result many submitters are choosing to by-pass the official form and send in their own views in their own words (a strategy permitted but obviously not encouraged) to foreshoreseabedreview@justice.govt.nz.

From the widespread feedback I have received it is clear that with a total of only 20 working days available for the preparation of submissions on the Government’s Foreshore and Seabed Review, not nearly enough time has been allocated. This is a very complex matter of huge constitutional importance for New Zealand.

As a result of the whole foreshore and seabed review process being far too rushed for people to get their heads around the complex issues and put in meaningful submissions, the NZCPR is today launching an on-line petition to the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to request that the deadline for submissions be extended by another two months to close no sooner than June 30th 2010, so that the wider New Zealand public can participate meaningfully in the submission process.

Given the extremely short time frame for collecting signatures – only 10 days – we are hoping that the petition will be spread as widely as possible. I would therefore like to ask you to consider sending details about the petition onto those in your address book who share your concerns about the future of New Zealand’s coastline.

The Minister in charge of this whole foreshore and seabed review is Chris Finlayson. He is also the Minister for Treaty Negotiations and the Attorney General. Questions have already been raised about the obvious conflict of interest: how can he try to appease Maori, while looking out for the interests of all other New Zealanders? The short answer is that he can’t. So who is looking out for the interests of non-Maori New Zealanders? No-one it seems. We are on our own.

What is particularly disturbing about all of this is that in its suggested law change, the Government has proposed that not only should the Crown (ie the Minister of Treaty Negotiations) be able to negotiate in secret with Maori over their rights to the foreshore and seabed – rather than them having to test their claims through an open process in the High Court – but that taxpayers should be forced to share in the cost of funding these claims. With the requirements for claimants to have contiguous land having been dropped, the door has essentially been opened for claims from any and every Maori group up and down the country. And if you think that might be an exaggeration, you might want to reflect on the fact that when the Court of Appeal ruled in June 2003 that the Maori Land Court could test for claims of customary rights, the mistaken belief that the Court had ruled that Maori owned the foreshore and seabed took flight. As a result, within a month of the ruling, Maori claims on coastal areas covered more than five million hectares of the foreshore and seabed, including claims to the edge of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Within one month, more than 2,400 kilometers of New Zealand’s 18,200 km coastline were under claim!

And with regard to the question of who the Attorney General is working for, Duncan Garner in his TV3 interview sheds some light on that:

DUNCAN: So you’d be willing to sit around the table with iwi in future negotiations as long as you’re the Minister and have customary title looked at outside of the courts obviously which is what this process allows, correct?

CHRIS: Oh yes look I – it may seem to be contradictory but what we’re trying to do is re-establish that fundamental right of access to justice, which I think most people would agree was a major problem with the 2004 Act. Having said that, I’d be much happier to negotiate with people because I’m a lawyer, I know what litigation costs, I know the time that’s involved and the effort that’s involved, and if things are able to be sorted out through negotiation, I think that’s great.

DUNCAN: So you’re telling Maori not to go to court, you’re telling them to come to the Beehive aren’t you?

CHRIS: Well I’m not telling them anything, but I’m suggesting to them that it’s a much better way to negotiate than to instruct lawyers.

DUNCAN: I just want to finally finish off with – could it be that absolutely nothing changes here, if there’s no kind of compromise that can be reached, that the status quo remains. Is that an option or is it an empty threat?

CHRIS: Well I’m actually very optimistic that we’ll be able to sort something out. I think the broad parameters are there, the basis for reconciliation is there, I don’t want to go into the what ifs if things don’t work because it’s my brief to make sure they do work and I’m going to do my level best to see that that happens.


The Government launched its review of the foreshore and seabed just before Easter and wants submissions in by the end of the month. With only 20 working days to read and digest the radical and complex proposals that are being suggested as replacements for the current law, most New Zealanders are finding themselves locked out of the consultation process. The timeframe is far too rushed for them to make a meaningful submission by the deadline. Yet the Prime Minister has indicated that he wants to hear what New Zealanders think of the proposals.

This on-line petition organised by Dr Muriel Newman of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research is asking the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to extend the deadline for submissions on the Government’s Foreshore and Seabed Review from 5pm April 30th for another two months, to close no sooner than 5pm June 30th so that the New Zealand public has a chance to participate meaningfully in the submission process.

1.TV3, The Nation – Duncan Garner Interviews Chris Finlayson
2.NZ Government, Reviewing the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004