Review of seabed act overdue – for sure
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said “23,000 Maori will be dancing on the table” when a review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act was announced last week.
That act led to the formation of the party and Tariana Turia leaving Labour.
It also sparked the biggest Maori protest of the generation, when more than 20,000 people converged on Wellington during the 2004 hikoi.
I was working for Radio Waatea doing interviews as we marched along the streets.
People were furious Labour had decided Maori, unlike other private property owners, would not be given the chance to have their day in court.
I recall a kaumatua with tears in his eyes when he realised Maori were being treated like second-class citizens by a government that did not trust them.
Labour all but said it couldn’t let greedy Maori own beaches because they might charge Pakeha to use them.
Instead of allowing Maori to use the courts, it introduced legislation that breached not only Maori property rights, but human rights.
Labour was opposed by the Waitangi Tribunal, the Human Rights Commission, most prominent churches, the Business Roundtable and the Act Party.
Even United Nations representatives came and said how unfair the act was.
But nothing swayed Labour, which knew what was best for Maori and the nation.
In my view this was one of the most arrogant acts from any government over the past few decades.
And it was the beginning of the end in terms of Maori support for Labour.
Unlike other commentators who say there’s no need to reopen old wounds, I believe it’s imperative this act is not only reviewed, but thrown out.
All New Zealanders should have the right to go to court, but under the Foreshore and Seabed Act, Maori don’t, and that is an injustice and a blight on this country’s race relations.
And it is a blight 23,000 Maori Party members want to see corrected.