Speech: Cultural Property (Protection in Armed Conflict)

Monday 8 September 2008, 2:31PM
By Hone Harawira

On behalf of the Maori Party I rise to make a very short statement on this Cultural Property (Protection in Armed Conflict) Bill which defines cultural property as the cultural heritage of all people. It includes monuments, archaeological sites, historic buildings, works of art, manuscripts, books, scientific collections, archives, museums, libraries, and refuges.

And that’s it.

There’s nothing Maori in here at all.

Which is kind of surprising when we are talking about cultural property and even more surprising when we are talking about protection in armed conflict, given the efforts of Maori involved in armed conflict on behalf of this country, and given the number of Maori MPs in Labour who allowed this to go throughy, completely deknackered of any Maori content.

Maori, of course, refer to the claim for WAI 262 when they talk of cultural property - a claim lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal to protect and preserve indigenous flora and fauna and associated cultural and intellectual heritage.

It was filed in 1991 on behalf of six claimant iwi by Dell Wihongi of Ngapuhi, Saana Murray of Ngati Kuri, Te Witi McMath of Ngati Wai, John Hippolite (Ngati Koata), Tama Poata (Te Whanau a Rua of Ngati Porou) and Kataraina Rimene from Ngti Kahungunu.

The tragedy of Wai 262 is that only one of the claimants is still living today.

And still we wait and we wait and we wait and we wait for a finding.

Wai 262 is code for the exclusive and comprehensive rights to flora and fauna, cultural knowledge and property as taonga protected by Article Two of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

WAI 262 is also a claim which says that the Crown has

Failed to actively protect the exercise of tino rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga over indigenous flora and fauna and other taonga, and also over mtauranga Mori.

That the Crown has failed to protect the taonga itself;

that the Crown has usurped tino rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga of Mori in respect of flora and fauna and other taonga through the development of policy and the enactment of legislation; and

breached the Treaty of Waitangi by agreeing to various international agreements and obligations that affect indigenous flora and fauna and intellectual property rights and rights to other taonga.

I am not going to speak for much longer but I was also interested to hear the reference to constitutional significance earlier in this debate.

And yet again, unsurprisingly, there was no mention of the foundation of our constitution, Te Tiriti o Waitangi which gives rise to the thought that perhaps the Maori Party might recommend the inclusion of a Treaty of Waitangi clause in this Bill to give the Maori members of the Labour Party the opportunity to, for at least once in the last three years, vote to support the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Maori Party will support this bill going to the select committee but only because we know that there are a lot of people out there who will want to challenge the racist basis of this Bill and the very exclusive way in which cultural property has been defined and valued. Tena koe.