Thursday, March 24, 2011

Foreshore and seabed: This isn't over

The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill has just passed its third reading, 63 - 56. The bill is an improvement on its predecessor, but only a slight one. While it restores the right to test claims of aboriginal title in the courts, it subjects them to such a high test as to make them virtually impossible. And in the unlikely case that those tests are met, it denies real redress. This is not just; it is not right; and it is not in accordance with our obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The good news is that it will not last. The bill has been rejected by Maori. And this means that it will be relitigated through the courts, Parliament, the UN, and ultimately the electoral system until a just solution is arrived at - just as the original Foreshore and Seabed Act was. Labour has already promised repeal. The Māori Party have made it clear that they will seek amendments when the political balance of power changes. The upshot is that we will be debating this in three years' time, and three years after that, and three years after that, until we get it right.

As for the Māori Party, the Greens' Metiria Turei made it clear: they were the real decision-makers on this bill, with the power to pass it or not. Their votes were the key. People thought that if Māori had the power, they would get a just result. They've been betrayed. And the Māori Party will be judged on that at the ballot box in November.