Monday, January 31, 2011
Mike Butler: Coastal bill two votes from oblivion
Bruce Bisset, who writes a weekly column in that newspaper under the title “Left Hook” argued, on January 10, that “if there’s one issue that threatens to divide the country this year it’s the marine and coastal area bill”.
But in his rather clumsy discussion of the issue, he made a few mistakes, including the assertion that “robber surveyors like Donald McLean were sent out with the express purpose of deceiving and dividing the local iwi in order to purchase great swathes of land for a pittance”.
Another columnist to that paper, local body politician and historian Ewan McGregor, quickly corrected a few factual errors in Bisset’s column -- mainly that land purchase officer McLean was neither a surveyor nor a robber. His article “Chiefs agreed to McLean bid for land sale” appeared on January 15,
Incensed that McGregor took him to task, Bisset sought to blacken McLean’s character further on January 17, in “Sanitising history just doesn’t wash”. At the point he could have backed up his allegations with references, but instead he resorted to bluster by writing “now I have read extensive and various accounts of these dealings and could, like McGregor, find suitable quotes to back up everything I’ve said above, and more”. No sources from Bisset, so nothing he said can be verified.
McGregor showed that his version could be verified when he supplied six references to back up his argument, on January 24, in a letter under the headline “History is about staying objective”
The exchange between Bisset and McGregor seemed to generate more extreme letters including wild claims posing as history but more likely created in somebody’s fevered imagination.
For instance, Tukotahi Teinuwai’s letter “Look first at the facts over the foreshore” (January 26) says “Maori killed the Moriori. This lie is a favorite for pakeha”. Unfortunately for Teinuwai, the historical record begs to differ. Maori witnesses told the Native Land Court in the Chatham Islands in 1870 that they had deliberately killed 300 Moriori in the 1835 Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga invasion of the Chatham Islands, noting in a matter-of-fact manner that it was the traditional method of supporting land claims. Check Michael King’s book Moriori.
More fevered imaginings from Pauline Tangiora. Her letter “Division and anger over foreshore and seabed, published on January 27, repeats the myth that “Maori have the responsibility as whanau and hapu to care for the environment. Unfortunately for Tangiora, evidence that widespread burning decimated up to 40 percent of native forests seriously undermines claims to “kaitiakitanga”, or the wise and sustainable management of the traditional resources. Early Maori inhabitants set fire to vast tracts of native bush to flush out moa, and promote the re-growth of edible plants. Survival was more important than care of environment. (1)
With increasing division and anger, how can Finlayson say, with a straight face, that his “marine bill offers a durable solution”, as the headline on his column in Saturday’s Hawke’s Bay Today stated. I guess at the moment he has the votes for the bill to pass into law. National’s 57 votes (one down awaiting by-election), four votes from the Maori Party, and Peter Dunne’s single vote gives it a 62/59 majority in the 122-seat parliament.
Peter Dunne may use the common sense he has become known for to oppose it, and the other four members of the Maori Party could walk away from it. Besides, how many National Party members would oppose it if they had a conscience vote? The bill is two votes from oblivion.
Will the numerous letter writers and voters up and down the country suddenly change their views if the bill is passed into law without broad support? I think not. A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still, as the old saying goes.
The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill offers no lasting peace on the foreshore and seabed. The Prime Minister would be wise not to proceed.
1. Hungry Maoris burned forests to grow food, Tuesday, 14 December 2010, http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/12/14/3092679.htm
at 8:19 AM