Every night before they go to sleep, good little Labour and Green spin doctors pray for another headline involving Gerry Brownlee. The guy is something of a modern marvel – has there ever been a senior minister with such an utter tin ear for public opinion? He’s had 50,000 people march against his mining plans and, now, he’s made a Treaty breach over the one area of foreshore and seabed that was settled.
Ngati Porou reached a foreshore and seabed agreement with the Crown under the existing Act (yup, it’s possible. In fact, they reckon it’s better than anything they get from the Nats). The area covered wraps around Ngati Porou land on the East Cape and gives the iwi an array of rights and powers.
Then, Gerry Brownlee, without consulting with the iwi, went and gave Brazilian oil company Petrobras rights to drill in the same area. Ngati Porou are calling this a breach of the Treaty and it probably violates their foreshore and seabed agreement too. On the weekend, 200 people up and down the coast protested on the beaches over this violation of their rights and the environmental risks poised by the drilling.
Brownlee initially apologised for his ‘oversight’ in failing to consult with iwi (guess it’s easy to forget the country’s only foreshore and seabed agreement covers the area you are opening for drilling). But now he’s reversed his stance.
Now, he’s saying that the iwi are the ones who owe him an apology. He put out some dodgy chronology to claim he had attempted to consult with them. Kind of makes you wonder why he thought he hadn’t consulted just a week ago.
Anyway, he says, he doesn’t have to consult over oil because it’s a nationalised resource (the one time the Nats like nationalisation). That misses the point, of course. The all too justified fear that Ngati Porou and others have of deep-water drilling is not about the oil being extracted, it’s a fear of spills that devastate the environment and the fisheries on which economies defend.
Ngati Porou have rights to that environment and those fisheries under the Treaty and their foreshore and seabed deal – (property rights, righties). They should have a say over any activity that puts those rights in serious jeopardy. Instead of dealing in good faith, Brownlee has gone on the attack and decided to make an enemy of Ngati Porou, and pissed off the Maori Party at the same time.
It’s typical of his arrogant, thoughtless approach that’s premised on the notion that he’s a minister who can do whatever the hell he wants and anyone who gets in his way will get a bashing. It blows up in his face every time but he’s too dumb to learn.
Gerry, you’re a godsend.