Foreshore and seabed a new ball game

Written By: - Date published: 7:12 am, April 11th, 2010 - 19 comments
Categories: foreshore and seabed, maori party, national - Tags: ,

A week is a long time in politics, so they say. About a week ago John Armstrong wrote:

Maori should grab this chance

National’s long-awaited prescription for healing that weeping political sore otherwise known as the foreshore and seabed should be grabbed with both hands by the Maori Party. It will not get a better deal than the one outlined in the discussion document released by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson yesterday.

It seemed like a safe prediction. National had outlined its position, and John Key was talking take-it-or-leave-it tough, with the threat of keeping the existing legislation. But now all of a sudden the Maori Party is being offered a new deal, a much better deal. 3 News reported the developments (video) as described by Duncan Garner here:

Finlayson reveals concessions on proposed foreshore laws

The Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has made some major concessions tonight on the Government’s proposals on the foreshore and seabed. Mr Finlayson has told TV3’s The Nation how Maori may be able to build hotels on the foreshore – and stop others from developments unless money changes hands. …

‘[What is customary title?] It’s a constrained form of property right it doesn’t inhibit public access it’s unable to be sold,’ says Finlayson. So we asked Finlayson – could it mean a hapu or iwi awarded Customary title, team up with wealthy investors Chinese investors and build hotels on the foreshore the iwi has title to.

‘[Would Maori with customary title be able to get away with that?] Oh yes but they would be subject to the RMA and other pieces of legislation it’s not proposed that they have self governing entity.

The proposals also give coastal iwi with customary title major rights to veto developments – like marinas. Mr Finlayson says like normal business – money could change hands to make sure developments go ahead.

… in a major development Mr Finlayson says iwi should by-pass the courts and prove their case to him personally. ‘I’d be much happier to negotiate with people and if these things can be sorted out through negotiations than that’s great,’ he says.

The controversial 2004 law also vested all minerals around the coastline with the Crown. National now it appears willing to compromise and hand some minerals back into the hands of Maori with ‘Customary Title’. ‘I can rule out petrol, gold silver uranium I’m prepared to listen to other people about those other minerals,’ says Mr Finlayson.

This is a whole new ball game. Customary title now includes property rights with substantial financial consequences, and (some) mineral rights. And, crucially, customary title now doesn’t have to be proved in court, it is a the discretion of the Treaty Negotiations Minister.

This news has just broken and I’ll be interested to see what details emerge. I do not understand why National has offered these concessions so soon after its originally hardline policy. There may be something going on behind the scenes here that is not yet evident. I am also uneasy at the idea of scrapping the court process — it seems altogether too cosy to have these rights granted by a National minister, in effect to its coalition partner. With these caveats in mind however, this still looks like a straight out big win for the Maori Party. I remain highly disappointed with the extent to which they have sold out their principles and their people in general, but with this development and Whanau Ora I don’t think that anyone could deny that the Maori Party has had a golden week.

Speaking only for myself of course (other authors here and elsewhere will have their own opinions!), I think that the Maori people have done very well here. It is a win that Labour could never ever have delivered for them (because of course National in opposition would have whipped up a frenzy of Iwi/Kiwi hysteria). It’s a win that only National (with a reasonable Labour opposition) could have delivered. This is a prime example of the great irony that sometimes governments make better progress on (bits of) the opposition’s agenda than the opposition can manage in government.

If progress is now made on this issue it will be tempting for political opponents of the National and Maori parties to try and undermine it, in the worst case to bring out the race card and take us back to Iwi/Kiwi. I hope and trust that the left of the political spectrum will avoid the temptation. If Maori are happy with this deal and take it let’s say good on them. After the historical wrongs done to them it is good to see this (in context still very minor) recompense. So let’s just wear that fact that it would be a big victory for National. Let’s celebrate a good outcome for Maori and the end of an ongoing political and social battle in our country. Every once in a while the political process can actually work for the greater good. Maybe this can be one of those occasions. Maybe…

19 comments on “Foreshore and seabed a new ball game”

  1. Matthew Hooton 1

    There is nothing new here. The media and Standard contributors (eg Eddie) simply didn’t read Finlayson’s document carefuly enough and instead swallowed the Goff line that there was no difference between Labour’s evil Foreshore & Seabed Act and the new proposal (a line Labour wanted to push in order to try to discredit the Maori Party by accusing it of ‘selling out’).

    The discussion document always talked about a development right and this is all Finlayson is referring to.

    I think this is the vital point, that means the proposal has integrity. There has to be the possibility of iwi getting something of economic value, or else the proposal is mere tokenism. I wrote about this in the NBR last year – see Its good to see it finally happening.

    Labour of course will now play the race card and claim that the new proposal means Pakeha will lose access to the beach. Watch this space.

    • Marty G 1.1

      Matthew don’t be a dork. You know that the offer fails to deliver the rights that iwi want, the rights they thought they had won in Ngati Apa. You know that Labour won’t play the race card – that was what National did when you were advising Brash, remember?

      Meanwhile, business is looking at this and seeing it the other way – too generous. The NBR this week has three pieces on the F&S. Your predictable Nat apologist piece and two pieces by people who aren’t former National spin doctors. The first is from a policy analyst saying National has put themselves in a poor bargaining position and the second is warning business won’t stomach the iwi veto right and calling the process an undemocratic sham.

      National risks falling between two stools here. Fortunately for them, one of the stools is Turia, and she’ll always side with National.

    • 1.2

      Hi Matthew. Yeah, Labour could play the race card. How about a ‘one rule for all’ speech or maybe some ‘Labour Kiwi – National Iwi’ billboards. On, hang on, those have been done already. A guy called Brash, maybe with some help from certain speech writers. Here is a challenge I am struggling with. Can you help me make a saying using the following words – kettle black calling the pot.

  2. r0b – that is a very good post – thank you.

    I am not happy with the minister making the decisions, but i’m also not happy with the courts doing it, when it comes to determining customary title, and i think maori will find this the sticky point. It all relates to mana. Sure if a hapu or iwi can be granted it then they may have a number of rights and vetos that they can use but can they be granted it in the first place.

    Evidence from the first hui is that maori are saying that they want the crown to have to prove they don’t have customary rights and I agree with that position.

    But it is a good debate, an important debate – we can’t fix things unless we actually understand what we are trying to fix. The sooner we front up to these issues and face them the better off we ALL will be. But I am not convinced that we have fair and reasonable negotiations yet. Too often maori aspirations have been used as a political football to the detriment of us all. Tiime will tell.

    And my advice for labour on this is just sit tight – you don’t have to comment on everything immediately – give the views of maori and other groups the time to surface and then you will be able to read the wind and determine the best position to take for the betterment of all. Same with whanau ora – let it go – tell the “we already did it”, “accountability is important…” lines but stop trying to dam the river and look to divert tributaries downstream.

    If labour plays a smart game they will win back maori voters. Attack the ball not the man or woman or the party – you must understand, and I don’t know if this is the same for other parties or people, but when the maori party is attacked, because I voted for them, I feel attacked and I think many maori feel the same way. There is not the same compartmentalisation. You have to take your hat off to the maori party because they have created that and whilst many have rallied against the associations – they are there and they are true IMO. Labour and their friends are smart enough to slightly adjust their attack lines to go for the policy rather than the person, I hope they make that adjustment.

    There is a big win for labour if they can focus their energies and that is in stopping the mining. It will drag back both maori and greens and show definate left leadership – and it is winnable. More people will like goff when he is standing at the front of a bulldozer protesting the attempted mining of schedule 4 lands, either symbolically or actually.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      I have to take my hat off to the MP because they’ve proven themselves racist, bigoted and unethical? Yeah, no.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    “It’s a win that only National (with a reasonable Labour opposition) could have delivered.”

    Only Nixon could go to China.

  4. RedLogix 4

    Nah… this is just a massive theft of public wealth into the hands of a tiny elite. Ordinary Maori will get nothing but grief from this.

    Ordinary people aren’t too fussed about the arcane arguments around the meaning of ‘customary title’. The way they see it if the govt concedes the S&F as effectively belonging to Maori (regardless of weasel words like ‘public domain’), then there is no fundamental reason why the whole of the nation should not eventually be similarly conceded. After all this exactly the argument we constantly hear from the Maori nationalists, and all public voices who might argue otherwise being curiously silenced or gagged.

    And the fact that Findlayson doesn’t want it to get in front of a Court tells us all we need to know… the whole thing stinks of legalised corruption right from the outset.

  5. ianmac 5

    “This is a whole new ball game. Customary title now includes property rights with substantial financial consequences, and (some) mineral rights. And, crucially, customary title now doesn’t have to be proved in court, it is a the discretion of the Treaty Negotiations Minister.”
    Does this mean that Iwi can claim Customary Rights to say the Marlborough Sounds and therefore decide or veto the use of the seabed? For example; A fee shall be paid to Iwi to set down a mooring, or build a jetty or even drop anchor, on top of the usual costs to Council?
    Does it mean that Iwi can veto marine farming for some but set up marine farms themselves?
    Contentious matters if so.

    • Marty G 5.1

      “Does it mean that Iwi can veto marine farming for some but set up marine farms themselves?”

      Yes on the first part – which pisses off non-Maori business.
      No on the second part – which pisses of iwi.

  6. Adrian 6

    Exactly, Ianmac, and the outcome of this if it pans out as stated will be to hand Winston a huge slice of Nationals core vote.I’ll bet the strategy is to then sidle up to him after the election with all sorts of baubles to secure his fealty. Good luck, Helen Clark had the skills to manage an arrangement with him, but I can’t see anybody in Nats able to hold down his reins, especially considering the number of seriously strange coat-tailers Winnie would bring with him, and it could be up to a dozen.

  7. Pundit X 7

    Labour allowed its anxieties about National’s race baiting to influence what should have been a principled stand.It was a serious misjudgement and shows what happens when you allow expediency to overide principle. Key is modernising the National Party – his message to them is follow the money not your prejudice and they will. A modernised National Party could capture the centre ground of New Zealand politics for some time to come.

    • Marty G 7.1

      on some issues, yes, key has moved national to the left (ie into modernity) but his economic agenda is very right wing.

      the new national has lost some of the principle it had in the 1990s – the national that introduced Schedule 4, allowed prisoners on short terms to vote, signed Kyoto etc.

      and I think it’s wrong to see this F&S offer as the elegent solution Key would have us think it is. As always he’s trying to sit between two polar opposite views – iwi want to be able to use their &s without having to go cap in hand to the govt for licences (and without having to bid as equals with pakeha business for those licences). Business sees that as a big threat and special favours.

      Key’s offer doesn’t give iwi what they want but it makes a very tough situation for non-maori business.

  8. Anne 8

    Matthew Hooton says:
    “The media and Standard contributors (eg Eddie) simply didn’t read Finlayson’s document carefuly enough and instead swallowed the Goff line that there was no difference between Labour’s evil Foreshore & Seabed Act and the new proposal (a line Labour wanted to push in order to try to discredit the Maori Party by accusing it of ‘selling out’).”

    I remember Phil Goff stating in a TV interview last year (and I paraphrase) that the Labour Party would like to work constructively with the government on any new proposal to the Foreshore and Seabed Act. I don’t think the government took them up on the offer, but at the time it was clear that Goff and his colleagues were genuine in their willingness to cooperate!

    It’s time Matthew Hooton stopped his pathetic spinning. When he refers to ” Labour’s evil Foreshore & Seabed Act” all he does is discredit his own claims, and shows his unwillingness to be honest and reasonable.

    • Pascal's bookie 8.1

      Be fair Anne 🙂

      Hoots can’t openly talk about those days with any honesty. So when he talks about the ‘evil’ things done by one party, that leaves the truth of his beliefs about what other parties did back then open to be discovered by the reader.

      Given we now know what he thinks National’s actions/rhetoric amounted to (incomparably worse than ‘evil’), and we know what he did and encouraged others to do (vote for and support a party incomparably worse than evil), then we should cut the poor, demented, tormented fool some slack. It’s not ‘spinning’ so much as ‘therapy’. Though the cheap shit could go and pay a professional rather than just airing it all in public, he really deserves our sympathy and understanding. Which is what I think all this angst on his part is about.

      The first step though is to frankly and fully admit the problem, explaining why, in excruciating detail, why he didn’t go public with his misgivings back when it would have counted, when his friends in National were busy describing the evil F&S act too good.

  9. Anne 10

    Hey Pb. You left out… vindictive, venal, voracious and malicious 😀

  10. Zaphod Beeblebrox 11

    Falling polls and Key suddenly realises that he unlikely to be able to govern alone after next year. ACT are falling apart. The solution- keep the MP and the urban middle classes happy and hope the heartland doesn’t rebel (they won’t vote labour or Green) and he’s got another 3 years.

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