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…