General Debate

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last Friday submissions closed on the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill. We heard this afternoon from the chair of the Māori Affairs Committee, which is hearing submissions on the bill, that over 3,000 submissions have been received on the bill and that 521 New Zealanders or organisations have asked to submit personally. I pay tribute to those people who are prepared to engage with parliamentarians, to take their time and to make a submission.

The ACT Party is the only party in this Parliament that opposes this bill. We believe that the consequences of this bill passing will be irreversible and of major constitutional and economic significance. A lot has been said about access to beaches, access to boating, and shipping rights. But what probably few New Zealanders understand is that this bill proposes the potential for a massive transfer of economic wealth to a few select iwi. That transfer will come at the expense of other iwi and other non-Māori New Zealanders.

There is not full awareness of the provisions of this bill among the New Zealand public but that awareness is growing. If there had been full awareness, notwithstanding the 3,000-plus submissions that were received, there would have been many thousands more. I sense growing awareness of the provisions of this bill as I walk around my local electorate—the Tāmaki electorate—as I did on the weekend. I spent some hours walking around Tāmaki, distributing fliers advertising meetings that I was holding in St Heliers and Kohimārama last Monday and next week. When I spoke to people in the streets I said I was delivering a letter about the provisions of the Government’s changed position on the foreshore and seabed legislation. There was a keenness to take that letter from me, a keenness to learn more.

I take this opportunity to address specifically the National members of Parliament in the House, because I want to say to you very clearly that although the emissions trading scheme has done your party some damage, it is absolutely nothing in comparison with the damage that the passing of this bill will do. If you do not understand that, if you do not appreciate that, then you are not actually listening to the constituents.

Mr SPEAKER: The member should not be addressing the Speaker like that. The use of “you” and “your” in this House refers to the Speaker.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I apologise.

A number of provisions in the bill are of concern to the ACT Party and to the 3,000-plus submitters on this bill. A cursory analysis of the submissions, which have now been made available publicly, shows that probably in excess of 95 percent, if not 98 percent, of the submitters on this bill oppose all or part of it.

Let us look at some of the issues. As I say, we have discussed and canvassed the issue of free access to fishing and free access to the beach. What concerns the ACT Party is a provision in the existing Foreshore and Seabed Act that prohibits those people who have gained customary title to foreshore and seabed reserves, those who have gained that interest, from charging for the use and occupation of that foreshore and seabed reserve. Let me quote from the provisions of section 40(2). It clearly states that the applicant group or the guardians of a foreshore and seabed reserve are specifically prohibited from charging for the use or occupation of that reserve. Where do we see those provisions in the existing bill? We do not see them.

Let us hope this bill is not passed—let us hope the Government sees sense—but if it is passed, then when it comes before a court, as it surely will, what will the judge say? The judge will look at the preceding legislation and see that a provision that provides for free use and occupation of a reserve has been taken out. The judge can only assume that that has been done deliberately, and that it has been done with the full intention of this Parliament and, certainly, the full intention of the National members of the Government.

What else concerns us? There is a provision in the bill for an iwi or an applicant group to enter into an agreement with the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General tried to be quite cute yesterday about that issue, but there is no other provision that enables an Attorney-General to do a direct agreement, produce an Order in Council, and have it signed into law by the Governor-General. Thank you.