Friday, August 13, 2004

Maori are New Zealanders too

Those who think I'm being unfair below by suggesting that those opposed to the idea of vesting the foreshore in a "Treaty Council" want a New Zealand run by and for Pakeha might want to consider this: the core of Bill English's campaign on the foreshore and seabed was the cry that "the beaches belong to all of us". He even explicitly said that "we all deserve a say". Well, Maori are a part of "all of us". It follows that they also "deserve a say" on how shared resources - such as the beaches - are managed. Denying them this say is to deny that Maori are New Zealanders too, and (by implication) saying that only Pakeha count.

This is not to say that a "Treaty Council" is the only solution. But it may just be the way out of this whole godawful mess. The symbolism of appealing to the Treaty and its spirit of partnership and cooperation cannot be understated. It's defensible on strictly liberal grounds as well as the Treaty's quasi-contractual ones; it stresses that this is a country where the beaches belong to and can be enjoyed by everyone, while holding out a hand to Maori and promising that their rights will be respected. It avoids creating outright winners and losers, keeps people talking, and (most importantly) gives everyone a say.

The more I think about it, the more I like it. If the government is going to insist on denying due process, then this is the way forward.