Tuesday, February 08, 2022

The Greens' "land back" policy

It was Waitangi Day over the weekend, and the Greens took the opportunity to release a new Hoki Whenua Mai policy to remedy injustices in the Treaty settlement process. Key provisions include giving iwi and hapu a right of first refusal over raupatu land (with a voluntary register for non-raupatu land); restoring the power of the Waitangi Tribunal to recommend the return of council- and privately-owned land, an inquiry into Māori dispossession, and reopening the settlement process in recognition of the inadaquacy of most settlements. A lot of this echoes the main points of Te Pāti Māori's policy, and seems extraordinarily moderate given the scale of the wrong done. An inquiry and first refusal rights? Easy. Tribunal recommendations over private land? The government will still have to buy it, and there'll still need to be a process for that (and you can see how first-refusal rights could also be a solution there, if iwi are willing to be patient). As for re-opening settlements, everyone knows they are insignificant compared to the wrong done, and everyone should recognise that this inadequate redress is in itself a severe and ongoing breach of the Treaty. While the government calls them "final", that's only the case insofar as Māori accept that they are, and that's a political question for each generation. If a new generation of Māori leaders rejects the deals made by their elders and demands proper redress, then the government is going to have to deal with that. Recognising that reality and having a process to deal with it in advance seems sensible, and a government committed to a just Treaty relationship would recognise that.

All of which makes Labour's immediate rejection of the policy seem stupid as well as racist. The injustice of the settlement process is already causing problems - just look at Ihumātao - and the government is going to have to deal with them one way or another. Sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending there is no problem is not a good way of doing that.