The Prime Minister didn’t talk too much about the Foreshore and Seabed in his speech last week, so I’m glad my bro Te Ururoa raised it in his reply. Te Ururoa’s line was basically that the Maori Party is happy to allow this matter to be settled by the Iwi Leaders Forum as the best group to represent Maori in negotiations, given that every member is an elected member of their own iwi.
And there is undoubtedly considerable support for that point of view, but if I can be so bold, I suggest that that is not necessarily the view held by the tens of thousands of people who have voted for the Maori Party over the past 5 years.
In fact, going back to when the Maori Party was still just a twinkle in somebody’s eye, I bet that if I’d asked the 40,000 people who marched on parliament back in 2004 whether they thought the Foreshore and Seabed debate should be settled by the Iwi Leaders, I reckon 39,500 of them would have probably said no.
You see, the march on parliament wasn’t exactly loaded down with iwi leaders. In fact, quite a few stayed away – some because they had plans to do their own deal regardless of what that might mean for other iwi, some who were offered a sweetheart deal by Labour to break ranks, some because they were genuinely scared that being seen on the march might mean their iwi contracts got the chop, and some because they weren’t sure whether their “mana” might be compromised by hangin’ out with the marchers.
Certainly there were those who weren’t there, but did their bit by helping with the cost of transport for their people, but given the fact that every man and his dog knew what day the hïkoi was going to be marching on parliament, the absence of iwi leaders at parliament was noticeable. And I know that because I know most of them personally, and I saw very few of them there on the day.
One who was there, and prominently so, was Sir Tipene O’Regan who told me that he had come up with his people from Te Waipounamu and that he was “bloody proud” to be there.
And undoubtedly there were others as well, but in fact the leaders of the march itself weren’t the iwi leaders at all, they were mainly the hardened activists of the past 20 years who understood immediately the racism inherent in the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and made a snap commitment to be part of a national team stitched together at the last minute to organise the march, and to ensure that as many people as possible were aware of the potential threat to our status as tangata whenua, and our rights to our takutaimoana.
And yet, even still, for all the commitment made by the activist brigade, the march would still have been a total flop if the people themselves hadn’t stepped forward – and they did; in their hundreds; in their thousands; indeed, in their tens of thousands.
And they came from everywhere. From the back blocks, from the small towns, from the streets of our cities, from Maori homes throughout Aotearoa. Men, women, teenagers, kids, mokopuna, kaumätua and kuia, everyone was there.
And regardless of whichever iwi or hapü they came from, there were thousands who marched to Wellington who didn’t read the act, who didn’t understand all of the technicalities, and probably didn’t even know what iwi they were – but they knew that something was wrong, they knew that they were getting shafted, they knew that their tupuna’s rights to the Foreshore and Seabed were about to get torn up, and they wanted to do something about it.
And they didn’t wait for the iwi leaders or the activists to give them the nod. They jumped in and they marched for our rights to the Foreshore and Seabed, because they knew it was the right thing to do.
And those are the people who the Maori Party has a commitment to respect, because they are the people who helped us ride a wave of freedom and independence all the way into parliament, on a promise to be true to our kaupapa of taking major decisions back to them, and of always trying to include them in the dream that they have asked us to realise.
They’re the people who have pinned their hopes on the Maori Party getting the Foreshore and Seabed Act repealed, and want us to do our best to get a good result for everyone.
And we know who they are. They’re the kaumätua and kuia who have known decades of deceit and dishonesty, and voted for the Maori Party because they wanted something fresh, something honest, something Maori.
They are our generation, a generation made cynical by the stories handed down of politicians who talk up a storm but never deliver, and they are the kids who want anything but the bullshit brigade of yesteryear.
And it’s us that they have chosen to carry this kaupapa. It is us, the Maori Party Members of Parliament who have been asked to carry this battle. It is us who have the honour of speaking up for our people. And we do our people a grave disservice by passing this on to somebody else to handle; and I have no intention of treating my people with such disrespect.
So what exactly is it that the Maori Party want to see after the repeal?
Well folks, I’m happy to say that the kaupapa that I’ve been touting all round the place over the past few months was approved by our caucus last week as the basis for a new deal on the Foreshore and Seabed.
It’s based on a paper written for us by Moana Jackson which proposed the notion of tupuna title - which basically says that if the whole world already knows that Maori people were here first, then lets stop being ridiculous by making Maori go to court to prove it. Let’s simply accept it’s true and build on that.
And it’s also based on discussions I’ve had with a number of other people, both Maori and Pakeha, who agree with the Maori Party that we need a solution that shows we are serious in our intentions, that we are comfortable with justice, and that we are mature enough to act with hope and with optimism.
So here it is. Three simple steps …
1. Maori Title: If government can assume ownership of the FSSB with one piece of legislation, they can just as easily give it back to Maori with another. That will put an immediate end to all the anxiety and angst and anguish from the past, and the decades of discord that will surely await us in the future, in we don’t act honourably now.
2. Inalienability: In the same legislation, include a clause ensuring that Maori can never sell the Foreshore and Seabed. That fits with the Maori world view that we don’t own land as a commodity, but rather we hold it as a taonga for future generations. It will also put an end to all that rubbish about Maori only wanting it so we can sell it.
3. Full Access: Again, in the same legislation, guarantee full access to all New Zealanders, because in the same way that Maori don’t want it to keep it for ourselves, neither do we want it to keep Pakeha out. As kaitiaki, we must be able to set limits on access to protect seafood stocks, promote conservation, and control behaviour, but granting access to Kiwis is an easy deal.
So there you have it. It ain’t rocket science but it will work.
The technocrats have already pointed out some problems, but they ain’t insurmountable. The vision is the important thing, and if we can buy into that, the rest will be easy.
We’re planning on takin’ this out on the road, because with a kaupapa as big as this we need to know that our people understand it, that they agree with it, and that they believe in it.
In closing Mr Speaker, let me thank the Iwi Leaders Forum for their efforts and for the really positive outcomes that they have been striving to achieve. They have played an important role in bringing a different perspective to this whole debate.
And although I say this very rarely, let me also thank the Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Mr Chris Finlayson for his sincerity and his commitment to trying to achieve a result that comes close to realising the expectations that our people have.
Mr Speaker, on Waitangi Day the Prime Minister asked the following question: “Why can't this be the generation of New Zealanders who open the next chapter in our history?”
Well Mr Prime Minister – the Maori Party is ready to take up that challenge. All we ask is that you and your government be bold enough to take it up as well.