A “Charter for Blackmail and rent-seeking by Maori interests”

Written By: - Date published: 12:21 pm, July 3rd, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: labour, maori party, national, racism - Tags:

Further to my post yesterday, a reader sent in this quote from 2004:

Mr English’s view was not [National’s] official line. As expressed by strategist Murray McCully, it is that the bill is a “charter for blackmail and rent-seeking by Maori interests”.

Let’s be clear. National opposed the Foreshore & Seabed Act because they thought it gave Maori too many rights. This race-baiting strategy suited their electoral interests at the time. Now that it suits their electoral interests to get onside with the Maori Party their tune has changed.

This change of position is to be welcomed, but their current attempts to rewrite history should be met with derision.

[PS, Danyl, good post. I agree with you that the F&S Act may have been the least worst option given the circumstances – I’m not naive about the political realities the Labour Government faced at the time. But I stand by my view that the F&S Act was tainted with betrayal and cowardice, and that it should now be replaced with something better.]

15 comments on “A “Charter for Blackmail and rent-seeking by Maori interests””

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    charter for blackmail and rent-seeking by Maori interests’.

    So, standard capitalist practice then?

  2. I am amazed the way that some right wing commentators are suggesting that doing away with the Act is a “good thing” but they are not saying whether the rights that were in the Act should be strengthened or done away with completely.

    Either choice will cause damage to National.

    I guess they could always fudge for 5 years …

    • gobsmacked 2.1

      Key’s problem is that he has no excuse to fudge.

      National plus Maori Party is a majority in the House. So even if they came up with a bill that ACT, Labour and Greens all opposed (which is unlikely), they would still have to “own” it and pass it. They can’t blame Labour any more.

      There is nowhere for Key to hide. He has to lead on this. He has to persuade – or stare down – his own base. If not, he will lose the Maori Party (or, if the Maori Party MPs are suicidal and stupid enough to back something worse for Maori than the repealed law, watch their own supporters revolt).

      It’s going to be fascinating to watch.

      • Lew 2.1.1

        I still haven’t read the report, but on reflection it seems to me that Key has two choices: frame the matter as a pure case of property rights with a very stringent regime for establishing them, one which establishes an extremely high bar to entry but, where entry is granted, yields very robust entitlements. This ensures he has ACT and the libertarian and hard-classical-liberal wing on-side. However that’s a bit weak, and if it fails he could be seen to be responsible for a legacy of litigation.

        I think, more likely, that he will implement a nationwide, highly managed agreement which is superficially quite generous in the immediate term but puts an end to any possibility of a future reparations and falls quite far short of the usual sort of entitlements one might associate with ‘property rights’. The focus will be on ending the claims progress before, or at least at the same time as, the wider Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, with the Foreshore and Seabed the jewel, so to speak, in the reparation crown. I think this is pie in the sky, though – for all the talk of “full and final settlement”, the matter of reparation will only be resolved when Mãori feel like they have been sufficiently compensated for the alienation and expropriation of so many tãonga, many of which can’t be returned in kind, but also can’t be adequately quantified in material terms. So the mãori party could find itself in a bind here, having to sell the scheme, sunset clauses and all, to a constituency with such high expectations.

        Devil and the deep blue sea, as it were. It’ll be an interesting few years.


        • Pascal's bookie

          Timing is also going to be important, and tricksy, I think.

          Whatever the two parties come up with is going to have to be taken around the country, yeah?

          If the deal is a tough sell, that could take some time and be an ongoing drama like the fiscal envelope tour. Goodish will on all sides but real mistrust and fear about how full and final this could be. Neither party will want that dragging on too long into an election year, both will surely want something concrete by then.

          But if something gets settled quickly to the mP and their supporters satisfaction, then that frees up the party for other issues, which would become the focus of National-mP relations.

        • RedLogix

          Well Lew, I guess it really depends of what Maori will accept as reparation. You last para puts it in a nutshell, but where does it end? The Maori Party really represent an elite Maori political class whose very existence seems to depend on endlessly ramping up the expectations of it’s support base.

          If as you say the the matter of reparation will only be resolved when Mãori feel like they have been sufficiently compensated for the alienation and expropriation of so many tãonga, many of which can’t be returned in kind, but also can’t be adequately quantified in material terms., then the goalposts can be moved around the paddock forever.

  3. Red Rosa 3

    This morning’s editorial in the Christchurch Press could have come direct from Kiwiblog. The FSA was condemned as ‘…one of the most spectacularly ill-judged enactments to pass though Parliament in many decades.’

    Which does seems somewhat over the top.

    Though it would no doubt raise cries of ‘hear, hear’ from the Maori Party.

    But what do the Press readers think? . The same page of the Press has the usual Letters to the Editor. And the first gem contains the paragraph…

    ‘If the National Government intends to change this, they better start thinking about the next election, because they won”t be the government after that.’

    Which sounds like a true-blue National Party voter to me.

    So just maybe the last government, after extensive consideration and consultation, came up with a legislative solution which allowed Maori much of what they sought, but ruled out the acquisition of freehold title to the foreshore and seabed.

    And were thereupon condemned for it by the National Party.

    So is this not an admirable example of Kiwi compromise? And how can it be improved on?

    (Well, just asking………….! )

    • Lew 3.1


      So just maybe the last government, after extensive consideration and consultation, came up with a legislative solution which allowed Maori much of what they sought, but ruled out the acquisition of freehold title to the foreshore and seabed.

      Except they didn’t.

      The FSA:
      * was not the result of extensive consideration;
      * was not the result of extensive consultation (at least, 95% of those consulted opposed it;
      * and did not give Mãori what they sought.

      In the current situation, whatever solution results will not include iwi or hapÅ« gaining full-scale freehold title to the foreshore and seabed in their rohe. This has been ruled out by repeated and definite statements from Key, Finlayson and Sharples that Pãkehã will not be barred from beaches – a right possessed by owners of freehold title (subject to some conditions such as the Queen’s Chain).

      So, no, it’s not an example of compromise. It’s an example of legislation by fiat, conducted to the electoral benefit of one group against their old allies, and one for which Labour were rightly punished by their Mãori allies.


  4. RedLogix 4

    I’m utterly confused by the range of mixed messages coming from all directions on this. On one hand we are being reassured that public access to the beaches will be guaranteed, but no mention on what terms, Even if access remains free and open, the idea that it was only at the grace and favour of a local iwi, who would regard me as a barely tolerable interloper on THEIR property still irks me. (There are already a number of places around NZ where the local Maori discourage perfectly legal access with a noxious attitude and standover tactics; and frankly I cannot see it getting any better once they imagine they own it all.)

    And anyone else noticed the complete silence about access to and use of sea itself?

    Besides if all the soothing talk about ‘customary title’ is true, then what exactly are Maori seeking that the existing SFA does not already grant them? The existing Act allows Maori to establish customary rights and co-managment regimes which I can happily accept. So exactly WHAT are they seeking to gain by demanding the repeal of this Act and the granting of a nationwide agreement to hand over ‘customary title’ en-mass?

    The idea of inalienable customary title is full of holes. The obvious question arises when the iwi attempt to use their new found asset to raise funding for development. An asset that cannot be sold is worthless as security. An asset which cannot have public access and use limited and controlled is a liability in a number of ways.

    The whole notion of ‘customary title’ opens a whole can of legal worms that our existing system really has no means of dealing with. It would prove so obviously unsatisfactory that Maori would very quickly be demanding that the ‘discriminatory second-class nature of customary title’ should be abolished, and the whole S&F be converted to private freehold title.

    Any other nation on earth planning to hand over it’s entire oceanic economic zone to an indigenous minority? Didn’t think so. If objecting to the mass privatisation of an ancient public commons makes me a racist; then so be it.

    The sea was never anyone’s ‘private property’ and never will be.

    • Good comment red

      The devil is in the detail. Do Maori want their original entitlements to be recognised or do they want to have the pakeha concept of title applied to those rights so that they can be mortgaged and sold and so that rich Americans can then own parts of the coastline?

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        Well as far as I can tell pre-European ‘aboriginal entitlement’ was only good for as long as you could hold it against the next incoming warparty. I don’t suppose Maori would want title to the S&F on those terms, and will be looking to the Crown to protect their ownership rights.

        Spot the irony?

        • Pascal's bookie

          “was only good for as long as you could hold it against the next incoming warparty”

          Sounds like Europe to me.

          I think the irony gets resolved by the treaty, pretty much.

          • RedLogix

            The warparties in Europe largely stopped with the establishment of the democratic nation state. Same here; in the 40 years prior to the establishment of the Crown, Maori indulged in an internal genocide almost unprecedented in history, killing (according to Michael King) almost 40% of their own population.

            To my simple mind the deep irony is that the signing of the Treaty and the establishment of law and order after 1840 was an enormous benefit to Maori, but the trade-off was the seceding of their tribal sovereignty. (Exactly as in Europe the nobility and warlords gradually shed political and economic power, until nowadays most have either vanished or are retained as merely as local colour for the tourists.)

            Ulitmately Maori really cannot have it both ways; they cannot condemn the State for appropriating their pre-European tribal autonomy, while at the same time appealing to power and protection of the State to restore it.

  5. Lew

    This is a really difficult debate.

    The original Court of Appeal decision suggested that Maori may have sufficient rights to some parts of the foreshore to ban general useage. The right wing made noises about what a terrible thing this was. Labour came out with an extensive consultation process, possibly the most extensive from that term and came up with legislation where public access was preserved. Maori still had the right to go to Court and if their customary rights had been violated then there was an obligation for the Crown to enter into negotiations with them to work out compensation.

    National at the same time said that Maori had no such rights and they would oppose any legislation which allowed for these rights to be recognised. They voted against the FSA.

    The Maori Party was formed out of the belief that the rights ought to have been recognised, and title issued for these rights, and if iwi wanted to sell those rights to overseas interests then so be it.

    Now National set up a review process that suggests that Labour’s position was wrong because it did not recognise those rights sufficiently. That makes National’s position doubly wrong.

    And Labour are the bad guys? If National come out and say that the rights ought to have been recognised then fine. For Maori this will be better than Labour’s previous position that National bitterly opposed.

    I hope they do but somehow I cannot imagine it happening.

    If it does then Key and co can explain to their supporters why National is now more progressive than Labour dared to be because it was afraid at the conservative reactionary stance that National had then adopted.

    My head hurts.

  6. gobsmacked 6

    A taste of things to come: on the one hand …


    On the other hand …


    Note that both Jackson and Dunne think the review went too far – in opposite directions.

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