When it looked like the Nats’ Marine and Coastal Areas Bill (replacement for the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004) was going to be a successful and enduring solution to the foreshore debate in NZ I was relieved and supportive. The new Bill had cross party support from National and Labour, and appeared (at that time) to be largely acceptable to Maori and the Maori Party. But the fragile consensus didn’t hold. Maori support for the Bill evaporated, while the looney right maintained its attacks. It became ever clearer that the Bill, even if passed, would be regarded by Maori as “a small step along the way”.
Now the new Bill has suffered a further massive blow to its credibility. Labour is pulling its support. As Stuff reports:
Labour to turn its back on foreshore bill
Labour is preparing to pull its support for the replacement foreshore and seabed legislation, with leader Phil Goff branding it a ”farce” that will not provide a lasting solution.
Labour initially supported the Marine and Coastal Area Bill when it was introduced to Parliament, but Goff said it was now likely to oppose it as it was clear the Maori Party wanted to revisit the issue in the future.
The bill does not need Labour’s support to pass, as National and the four Maori Party MPs presently backing it will give the Government the numbers.
But losing Labour support would dent Attorney-General Chris Finlayson’s bid to find general consensus on resolving the foreshore and seabed issue and his claim to have found a “durable solution”. …
The comments come as the Maori Party faces huge pressure to drop its support for the bill.
Several powerful iwi, including the South Island’s Ngai Tahu and Hawke’s Bay-Wairarapa’s Ngati Kahungunu, have called for it to be scrapped, saying it fails to address the injustices in the existing law.
Rebel Maori Party MP Hone Harawira is also opposing the bill, insisting that it sets too high a bar for Maori to prove customary title. …
I think that this is a very risky move by Labour!
If it just political manoeuvring, then it is very unwise. Yes, it puts National under pressure, and drives the wedge between National and the Maori Party in even deeper. But it means that the issue rolls on as a festering sore for Labour to inherit. I can see a future that looks depressingly like the past, with a Labour government floundering around for a workable compromise that does not exist.
More optimistically, I would like to hope that this represents a genuine change of heart from Labour. Take a side! Push the balance further towards Maori aspirations. Put together a solution that is genuinely acceptable to Maori. Ride out the Iwi / Kiwi backlash — having failed it will be much harder for the Nats to run that line again. Labour, the Maori Party and the Greens could then build a solid, enduring platform of consensus and political cooperation that would serve this country very well…
Update: Very encouraging statement from Labour.