Skip to Content »

Close Up on Maori claim to water

  • July 18th, 2012

TVNZ's Close-Up asked me to balance Shane Jones last evening because National would not put up a representative. Close Up had researched this blog's recent posts. Franks & Ogilvie has interests in the proposed water reforms but we could comment without conflict of interest

Close Up's exploratory questions were sensible. I still enjoy being free to answer questions informatively, without the MP's need to fight interviewers to drag the conversation round to the politically desired message.

Close-Up said my earlier blog posts were too pointy-headed. Could I do them a plain language version? This and following posts started as the dumbed-down-for-TV simplification on questions asked but not reached on camera because of television's time constraints. They've now got recomplicated.

Is it 2003 revisited on access to justice?

Are there access to the courts issues as in the seabed and foreshore debacle. Close Up was aware of ACT's principled position after the Court of Appeal Ngati Apa decision (that Maori had enough of an argument  to test the law in Court), but not of my submission on the Marine and Coastal Area Bill explaining why I'd come to see Dr Cullen's law as a solution to the earlier political storm.


No one has yet suggested that Maori will be prevented from going to Court, but we have the same problem where the Crown is failing to run the legal arguments that would apply in Court. The Attorney General's lawyers are only arguing that it is not relevant to the mixed ownership model. In that there is a parallel. Margaret Wilson would not let the Ngati Apa case go to the Privy Council because she was abolishing that right, so Labour had no breathing time to correct public misconception that the Court had held that Maori owned the beaches.

The Crown reasons for again failing to lead with argument on the legal merits, or even to state a simple principle that our law on water will treat all equally irrespective of race, are just as discreditable, though probably harder to fix. I'll explain more in the next post on this.

Why are the NZ Maori Council getting this attention when the government had a process running with iwi leaders?


Because they can. NZMC is now a facade for the wily Donna Hall, Sir Eddie Durie, Whata Winiata, Maanu Paul and the aging figurehead, Sir Graham Latimer. It has had little or no credibility for years, little in the way of elections and no organic connection with iwi, or  detribalised Maori. But it is the 'pocket borough' of very cunning politicians who have milked legal aid and the Treaty industry for years.

[Side note – the NZMC is the statutory predecessor of the corrupting unelected groups like the Auckland Council Maori Statutory Board that are being inflicted on territorial councils. It was promoted by a long ago National government to bring Maori together when their influence was diluted by infighting. National continue with the same gullibility and goodwill. But at least Duncan Macintyre did not have the current willingness to sacrifice democratic principle for a temporary 'higher cause'. The outcome will be the same. These warts on our local democracy will be eventually equally ruthlessly exploited by brown apparatchiks whether or not the current personnel are well-intentioned].

So the timing of this claim is mostly a matter of internal Maori politics. The NZMC conspirators know theatre. They know the weaknesses of National, and the dilemma they create for the iwi leaders who have been ignoring them recently.

The tragedy of New Zealand's state sponsored racism is that it has led to there being no Maori leaders who can compete for mana with the racists, by showing concern for New Zealand as a whole. Or perhaps they just lack the courage of their forebears, like modern politicians of most stripes. It would only need the iwi leaders to say publicly what they are muttering privately. They can't risk being painted within Maoridom as 'kupapa Maori' or Uncle Toms, because power in race politics depends on showing willingness to 'stick it to the man'.

The moderates have too often had their feet cut from under them after counselling followers not to ask for ridiculous race privileges, only to find weepy pakeha leaders offering them.

So the iwi leaders' long work on water rights could be sidelined by the NZMC end run. They will, nevertheless stay mum to see if the government can fight itself out of its corner, with one hand tied (from its recent history of dubious compromise). If instead iwi leaders said publicly what they say privately the political heat would evaporate.

The government could not be painted as racist and the storm would pass. Iwi leaders would be acknowledging their own knowledge that there is little legal merit in the claims and even if there was it would put intolerable stress on race relations and the prospects of unlocking the value for us all if we get a sensible ownership system for water rights.

 John Key and Chris Finlayson should have earned enough credits with the iwi leaders (with  deals) to call the Maori cavalry to their rescue now, but they'll find sudden deafness.

National has sadly helped create this NZ Achilles heel. For political Maori, race interests must trump shared national interests or they get dumped by their own activists, in the long run the only people who matter for most politics . The iwi leaders cannot afford to take the kind of  leadership role taken by Sir Apirana Ngata. There is too much at stake for them if the outcome could be apparent success by the NZMC. They will have to look as if they welcome it for the sake of continuing support in Maoridom.

So the Crown has a lot riding on the Waitangi Tribunal outcome. Don't bet on anything but a messy finding.

Next instalment – comparisons of 2003-2004 and now.

Leave your comments:

* Required fields. Your e-mail address will not be published on this site

You can use the following HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>