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Maori Party caves on foreshore & seabed

Written By: - Date published: 12:44 am, June 15th, 2010 - 39 comments
Categories: foreshore and seabed, maori party, national - Tags:

What I’ve always liked about the Green Party is that they are honest brokers. They are always straight up about where they stand and they don’t do deals that betray their principles for power or trade-offs. I guess I had kind of assumed that the Maori Party, coming from a base with similar politics was the same.

But that illusion was shattered by their disgraceful behaviour over the ETS. Rahui Katene first tried to hide her own dissenting select committee report.Then, Maori Party MPs sung the praises of a law that gutted the ETS they had previously opposed for being too weak.

So, I always had a sinking feeling about the Foreshore and Seabed.

National was never going to give the Maori Party what it wanted and the weasel words coming out of the Maori Party told me before the official announcement that they were set to sell out once again.

As I predicted, there will be two changes that will allow the Maori Party to save face.

The first is the name change. By choosing something other than public domain (yet to be decided) the two parties can go to their constituencies and claim mutually exclusive success. National will say that whatever the name is, it’s just public ownership in drag. The Maori Party will go to its people and say the new name means it is something different, expecting their supporters to believe a pile of crap by any other name doesn’t smell as bad.

The second will be some kind of apparent back-door. The Maori Party will claim that some part of the deal (these ‘universal recognition orders’, I’m guessing) allows iwi to get more than they otherwise would have under National’s original proposal. National will say that it is no practical change from the existing situation under the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Shades of the DRIP.

Keeping things vague suits the purposes of both National and the Maori Party.

As we look at the outline of the deal National is offering, there is no real change from the current law:

  • Public domain or whatever is Crown ownership, no practical difference – and that was explicitly opposed by the Maori Party and the Iwi Leadership Forum.
  • Customary title can be proven in court but neither Key nor Sharples expect much litigation – so iwi will continue to negotiate with the Crown as under the FSA. Various people have said that the foreshore and seabed deal Ngati Porou negiotated with the Crown under the FSA is more generous than anything iwi will get by going to court.
  • Existing private titles will not be covered by the new regime – the Iwi Leadership Forum said that unless those titles are covered they would not concede to putting the land they claim under public domain/whatever: ‘We refuse to forgo all of our rights and put our rights to the foreshore under the public domain, as long as there are still 12,500 titles sitting there, private titles to the foreshore,’

Some people are saying ‘well, they got what they could and they can win a better deal later’. It doesn’t work like that. Both National and Labour have every incentive to view this as a full and final settlement. In fact, I think Labour will happily vote for it (once these issues around iwi veto rights and minerals are defined satisfactorily) because there is little significant difference between the new regime and the FSA.

By signing on, the Maori Party gives this Crown ownership public domain whatever permanent legitimacy. If they come back in five years time and demand a new deal, they’ll get a big public backlash and no major party will want to go near it.

The deal the Maori Party makes now is the one Maori are stuck with. That’s why the Iwi Leadership Forum is so unexcited about it. A deal that amounts to little more than a symbolic rearranging of the deck chairs is not what the Maori Party was established to achieve.

The winner here is Key. He played the Maori Party into a position where he won either way. Either they had to say ‘no deal’ and bail out of government losng their ‘achievements’ to date, and Key would claim he was standing up to extremism, or they had to kneel down and ‘take it’, and Key would be labeled the ‘great uniter’ for a law that is essentially a restating of the FSA.

39 comments on “Maori Party caves on foreshore & seabed ”

  1. Lew 1

    Same comments as here. It’s handy for partisan purposes to be able to pin this on the māori party, but it looks like the Iwi Leadership Group needs a share of the responsibility.


  2. Jenny 2

    Eddie, I notice that in your post you don’t link to what the Maori Party say about this.

    Is there any reason for this obvious omission?

    For those who prefer to hear both sides of a story here is the official Maori Party press release.

    • I really liked this sentence:

      “It has been really great to see the National Party enter into a treaty based dialogue and we would hope that this can continue on any number of issues.”

      And why wouldn’t they hope it will continue? The beemers and bawbees are impressive, even if the results of the deals are meaningless. I think I’ve got the Maori Party system sussed now; talk left, act right.

    • Fisiani 2.2

      The Maori Party can work with National but not with Labour. Say goodbye to 2011,2014 and 2017.

  3. Bored 3

    Hmmm, read it, nothing changed really except the act repealed, reinstated with the right to go to court and lose….call me a cynic but what a waste of time and energy. Big piss up at Keys place tonight.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    Public Domain is still crown ownership as crown is just a legal term for the state. But I guess in the future like the Schedule 4 of Conservation land, what is given by the National government in 1 term can be taken away by the national government in another- when the MP is gone and forgotten

  5. Ron 5

    So the maori party are just another political party.
    No principles, no stand – just compromise in the quest for power.
    I’m ashamed that I voted for them last time. I hope they’re ashamed of themselves.

  6. lprent 6

    Does seem pretty much the same as the F&S act on my first reading. Be interesting if any fishhooks show.

    But it does kind of make all of the histrionics that the formers of the Maori party did look rather pathetic in retrospect. Quite simply I suspect they’d have gotten further with Labour if TT had been more interested in negoitiation than her ego.

    • Marty G 6.1

      The fishhooks are, surprisingly, things that iwi have won that they didn’t really campaign for – free mineral rights and development vetoes.

      There will be some seriously pissed off non-iwi businesses when they realise the implications of those clauses.

  7. I believe there is no fundamental change. Hone does too. He is ready to spit the dummy full time.

    When the Bill comes out and it is confirmed that nothing is really different I wonder what he will do?

  8. Lazy Susan 8

    Had to laugh at Chris Finlayson, Minister for Treaty Negotiations, on Morning Report saying that “customary title was not necessarily inferior to freehold title”.

    Sure Chris – you just don’t own it or can’t sell it. Wonder if you’d like to swap the freehold title on your house for a customary one?

    • Lew 8.1


      “can’t sell it.”

      … and what that means is that you can’t borrow against it. The age-old problem of collective ownership of Māori land which can’t be developed — even to the extent of building houses for kaumatua — for lack of money.


      • Alexandra 8.1.1

        I agree customary title does not equate to an estate in fee simple, but it does provide rights to mana whenua in accordence to tikanga. Mana whenua is all important. Customay title is substantially more that the right to customary activity as provided under the F & S and Resourse Management Act. I dont know yet if the proposal delivers real opportunity to customary title and Im looking forward to some maori legal commentary on this. If it does, I understand why its is viewed by maori as a significant improvement to the status quo. Lew, I agree that Maori collective ownership limits access to bank loans, but that is a minor hurdle in the long term. Remember iwi leadership have their eyes on kiwibank and an increasingly powerful economic base.

    • And you cannot prevent the public accessing it. You get a nice shiny bit of paper saying that you own it but you don’t really.

      And this is an improvement?

  9. Santi 9

    The baubles of office are too good to pass. Cheap guys bought at an even cheaper price.
    Leaders they are not. Maoridom is stuffed for many years to come.

  10. Alexandra 10

    “Maoridom is stuffed for many years to come.”

    Santi, Maoridom is worth over 11 billion. Is that what you mean by stuffed?

  11. ianmac 11

    I wonder if this will mean that Iwi will have the right to decide whether or not boat owners can own a mooring or a jetty?
    Will it mean that Iwi can collect a charge for having a mooring or a jetty?
    Be a great money spinner and these things were on the board pre 2004 Act.

  12. Anne 12

    @ Alexandra.
    I bow to your superior knowledge on the subject of the F&S legislation etc., and I for one am grateful for the informative contributions you always make.

    However, I have followed the seeming vendetta that Tariana Turia has waged against Labour for a long time now. While it may have reached it’s peak at the time of the passing of the F&S bill, my understanding is her animosity existed long before it even became an issue. I was told by someone in the inner sanctum of the Party that she was “difficult” right from the start of her parliamentary years with Labour. So it seems to me there has been an on-going element of political gamesmanship conducted by Tariana, which has meant she will always paint Labour in a negative light no matter what they do or say. I would go so far as to say she was never a loyal member of the Party, and I expect they rue the day they invited her to stand for them.

    The above may not be the central issue in this debate , but it does need to be taken into consideration in the interest of a full and fair discussion.

    • Alexandra 12.1

      “The above may not be the central issue in this debate”

      Your right. Its not central or even remotely relevant to the issues I have raised in this debate and quite frankly I find your attempt to swing my comments some place they were never directed, very tiresome.

      • Anne 12.1.1

        @ Alexandra
        If that is the way you have chosen to see my comments then I can do nothing about it. Rather sad though given they were meant to be friendly. Perhaps I didn’t make make that clear enough.

        They were merely another talking point in the discussion – an additional perspective if you like. Strictly speaking they didn’t relate to your specific comments I know, but I directed them to you because I recognised that you are well informed on this subject.

  13. Gosman 13

    I love this bit

    “The winner here is Key. He played the Maori Party into a position where he won either way. Either they had to say ‘no deal’ and bail out of government losng their ‘achievements’ to date, and Key would claim he was standing up to extremism, or they had to kneel down and ‘take it’, and Key would be labeled the ‘great uniter’ for a law that is essentially a restating of the FSA.”

    But guy’s, how does this square with the often stated position on this site that John Key is a political light weight who is basically incompetent, (unlike the last government under Ms Clark of course)?

    It seems to me that you seriously underestimated John Key’s political nous on this one.


    • Lew 13.1

      On everything, Gosman, on everything. They’ve been underestimating him since 2007, and even when he soundly thrashed them at the polls and in the debates, they continued to underestimate him. I’m as furious about it as you are happy.


      • Gosman 13.1.1

        For consistency sake wouldn’t it be better to spin this as a victory for the Maori party and a major concession by the Government? That way you can keep to the line that John Key’s leadership is weak and perhaps alienate him from his more conservative support base.

        • Lew

          That’s never been my line, Gosman, and I don’t think it is a victory for the māori party, as I’ve argued at considerable length. Why do you think I would?

          Oh, of course, it’s because you think I’m a cheerleader. Sorry to disappoint you.


          • Gosman

            I wasn’t meaning you per see Lew, more those who have attacked John Key in the past for being a political light weight.

    • Bright Red 13.2

      It was the Maori Party that underestimated Key. Everyone else knew that they would get bitten by the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    • Bright Red 13.3

      “It seems to me that you seriously underestimated John Key’s political nous on this one”

      really? because I’ve seen posts predicting Key would do exactly what he has done.

      • Gosman 13.3.1

        No no, you misunderstand. The general attack line is usually that John Key is a political lightweight not fit to lick the shoes of the former PM of this country.

        The trouble with doing that is that when he manages to achieve something that was beyond the capability of the last regime this loses all credibility.

        It is better to paint John Key as some dark Machevallian master or spin this as actually a major concession to the Maori party if you want to continue to attack Key on his political leadership.

        • Bright Red

          People say Key is a policy lightweight and a do nothing PM. They’ve never denied he’s good at playing people, which seems to be your definition of being good at politics.

          • Gosman

            Resolving one of the more controversial political messes left over from the last government doesn’t seem to be my definition of a ‘do nothing’ politician.

            • gobsmacked


              Take a break from Key-worship for a moment.

              Do you, genuinely, believe that this has been “resolved” (your word)?

              Note – my question is not “Do you think John Key has won a short-term game, keeping Sharples and Turia on board, for now?”. Clearly, he has.

              Do you think Maori concerns over the Foreshore and Seabed are now history? Do you think that two Ministers = all Maori? Do you know any history at all, when leaders agree and their people do not? Do the issues suddenly disappear, because of a press conference?

              Honest answer welcome.

              • Gosman

                Whether or not some, or even most Maori, are against this agreement is essentially pointless now.

                Unless they form a different party or roll the current Maori Party leadership then this issue is pretty much dead from a political point of view. Certainly Labour won’t be bringing up any alternative solutions anytime soon.

                The only other alternative is the Greens deciding to make some traction with this. I look forward to seeing them try.

  14. aj 14

    Whatever happens to the name it will be under Crown stewardship and laws. Bit like our National Parks.

  15. tomfarmer 15


    you surprise me some.. else the adulation claimed for Eddie’s concluding para is excuse to provocation.. be kind enough to explain..

    while at it, tell us what the PM actually did..? that his Minister Chris Finlayson did not do..?

    it will help you to know that Minister Finlayson explained on Morning Report yesterday how one has to “see things in the Round”.

    By which I for one took him to mean legal research and analysis courtesy Canterbury’s David Round ( I knew of him at Canty University tho he could be elsewhere these days). And what little I read of David’s analysis here on this same blogsite contained what I felt was a little conflation on customary/freehold rights.

    If nothing else, Minister Finlayson’s contribution of late has brought some recognition to that otherwise confusing legal circumstance..

    the only problem really remaining is whether the government’s action – which might include the mollification of MP Members – has emboldened the parties enough to henceforth claim Government-sanctioned preferential right/s on their forward path..

    so.. back to it… what has the PM actually done to warrant your effusion..?

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