Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill — Second Reading

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I rise on behalf of the ACT Party to speak on the second reading of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, and I rise on behalf of New Zealanders throughout the country who oppose this bill, just as one of my predecessors, former ACT deputy leader Ken Shirley, rose in this House in 2004 to oppose the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, which was being rammed through by the Labour Government. ACT opposed that legislation because it was a travesty. It was a law that removed from iwi their fundamental right to have their day in court, left Māori feeling like second-class citizens, and led us to a path of fury, frustration, and division.

ACT’s stance on the foreshore and seabed has always been consistent. In 2004 ACT argued that claims to customary title over the area of the foreshore and seabed should be left to the courts to decide. Today I reiterate that stance. ACT believes that the courts should decide this issue. I reiterate the stance of the ACT Party by saying that we support the repeal of the 2004 Act, and oppose the passage of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill. Although National and Labour members claim that the bill restores the right of iwi to have their day in court when claiming customary title over an area of foreshore and seabed, the fact is that it does not.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Codification or no codification?

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: At this stage I acknowledge Mr Finlayson, who has just referred to codification. I will come back to codification very shortly. I acknowledge Mr Finlayson’s acknowledgment of the speech and contribution by David Parker, because it seems that Mr Finlayson, alone in this House, is prepared to acknowledge the contribution of an opposite number.

When the Prime Minister delivered his statement on the first sitting day of Parliament this year, we heard responses from the party leaders. Tariana Turia got up and said that she almost felt ashamed to be a Minister in the Government and to be supporting the Government, given the level of unemployment among young Māori. Earlier this afternoon, when I listened to David Parker, whom Mr Finlayson generously acknowledged, I felt the same shame that Tariana Turia referred to on the first sitting day of this year. I felt the shame of listening to the interjections and contributions of Tau Henare, Paul Quinn, and, more recently, Simon Bridges. Although the leader of the Green Party does not want to record and acknowledge those contributions so that they are written into the record of Hansard , I am prepared to record them.

This is an issue about two things. It is an issue about tests over customary title, and about the benefits that come from those tests. In essence, we have two views. One view states that the tests for granting customary title and all that comes from it are far too loose, and that far greater areas of customary marine title will be awarded as a consequence of the loose tests laid down in this bill. The contrary position is the one espoused by people like a number of Māori Party supporters who came and opposed this bill and a number of iwi who said that the tests are far too tough. In fact, Ngāi Tahu came to the select committee hearing in Christchurch and presented a map of the South Island with the 200-mile economic zone marked on it and said, essentially, that everything within that 200-mile zone was theirs.

Tariana Turia referred earlier this afternoon to the contribution of the Coastal Coalition. I acknowledge the work that the Coastal Coalition has done, and in particular the work of Hugh Barr and Muriel Newman. The position of the Coastal Coalition is not the ACT position. Unlike the Coastal Coalition, the ACT Party firmly believes that iwi should have their right to go to court. They should be able to bring a claim for customary title.

I felt ashamed when I saw some of the material put out by National on this bill.

Hon Tau Henare: Give up your warrant; go on. Give up your warrant.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: I am looking at an extract from the Beehive website, which is headed “Setting the Record Straight”, and states: “You may have heard opponents of the Marine and Coastal Area Bill making inaccurate”—

Hon Tau Henare: No you wouldn’t, would you, because you like the cars.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Let me interrupt my speech and acknowledge Tau Henare. I say to Mr Henare that I felt ashamed at the way he treated the New Zealanders who appeared before that select committee.

Hon Tau Henare Is that right?

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Yes, it is. I felt ashamed, and I feel ashamed, that I am supporting a Government that plays the ACT members off against the Māori Party members. I felt ashamed to see the way some New Zealanders who appeared before that select committee were treated. Yes, there may have been members who had eccentric views, and there may have been members who had racist views, but the role of a select committee is to listen to what the public of New Zealand have to say and to treat them with respect. People who make a submission on law do it out of the goodness of their heart and what they believe within them.

Let us look at the Government’s website and an extract headed “Setting the Record Straight”. It states: “You may have heard opponents of the Marine and Coastal Area Bill making inaccurate claims about the legislation. We want to set the record straight:”. The Beehive website goes on to summarise a few of the key issues. As Mr Finlayson said, it is about codification; it is about the tests. The website states that the opponents claim that “The bar has been lowered on the qualifying criteria so anyone can apply.” It further states: “The criteria to apply for customary title is extensive. The most rigorous test is proving uninterrupted and exclusive use and occupation of an area of the common marine and coastal area, from 1840 to the present day. Many areas of New Zealand are not eligible because of this requirement.” That is interesting, because that is a very tough test. I note that the Prime Minister, in reply to comments by Jim Matson, who is a long-time National Party supporter, in the Sunday Star-Times  2 weeks ago, made the same comment. Although the article appears under the name of John Key, I suspect it was written for him by the office of Mr Finlayson. It states: “The test for customary title requires continuous exclusive use and occupation of an area since 1840, and as you can imagine, this is not an easy test to meet.”

Well, no, it is not an easy test to meet, but it is not actually the test. The test is not requiring continuous exclusive use and occupation of an area since 1840. No sooner had the Attorney-General finished his first reading speech back in September, he said that he intended to lodge a Supplementary Order Paper to change the bill that he was presenting. He said: “We’re not going to have a test that requires you to show exclusive use. We’re going to allow people who have used it, we’re going to allow people who have boated through the area, we’re going to allow people to fish through an area, and the mere fact that they have done that does not preclude an iwi or hapū coming along, making a claim, and saying that they have had continuous and exclusive use.”

The Government has tried to reassure New Zealanders, it has tried to put New Zealanders at ease, and it has tried to say that there is not an issue—the Government is popular; back the Government. The ramifications of this will come back to make New Zealanders rue it for many, many years to come.

Another key issue here is that the Prime Minister says that, put simply, the bill is a new approach to the ownership of the common marine and coastal area. It guarantees free public access to New Zealanders. It also protects fishing rights. If someone is using the marine and coastal area for something at the moment, then the bill guarantees that person will be able to continue to do so. It guarantees it. We are told we are allowed to access an area, but we have no guarantee of use and occupation.

We are told there will be some 385 changes to the bill. Has the Government had the courtesy of discussing with the people of New Zealand what those changes are? No, it has not. We have heard this afternoon that a Supplementary Order Paper will be lodged in the House tomorrow, and we will be debating it on Thursday.

The ACT Party is bitterly opposed to this bill. It will deny rights to some who have them, and give rights to others who do not have them. It will take from some, and give to others. The ACT Party strongly opposes this bill, and we will fight it to the bitter end. I hope that the other speakers in this House are given greater courtesy than Mr Parker had shown to him this afternoon. Thank you