Monday, September 13, 2010

Mike Butler: Unrepresentative democracy

Ninety one percent of respondents to a YahooXtra poll this weekend think that iwi should not have any customary title to beaches. The poll attracted 21,050 votes in two days, of which 19,211 were against granting customary title. It is interesting to see such overwhelming opposition when there has been little debate in the mainstream media over the National-led government’s purported solution to the foreshore and seabed issue.

Of course, the area under debate is the foreshore and seabed, not the beaches as polled by YahooXtra. The foreshore and seabed comprises around 10 million hectares – one third of the landmass of New Zealand. It is the distance between the average spring high tide waterline and the 12 nautical mile territorial limit. Included are the beds of rivers that belong to the coastal marine area. It is also the airspace above this zone and the water, subsoil, bedrock and other matters like mineral wealth below.

The customary title under discussion is a far cry from how the resource was customarily viewed in 1840 – when Maori inhabitants of New Zealand either paddled over in it a canoe or fished from it.

Further proof that the National-Party-led government is trying to get the innocuously titled Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, which would replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, through without too many people noticing came on Monday. While the news media was preoccupied with the Christchurch earthquake, Attorney General Chris Finlayson introduced the bill.

And while proponents of the bill would assert public access to the beaches would remain, neither Prime Minister John Key nor Finlayson would give a clear, unequivocal guarantee that access would remain as is.

Clause 27 confirms the rights of access for every individual, but these rights are subject to prohibitions and restrictions outlined in clause 78, which refers to “wahi tapu” restrictions that may be set out in a customary title. “Wahi tapu” is not defined in the bill, but the reader is referred to section 2 of the Historic Places Act 1993.

If the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill is out of step with public sentiment, it is not the only piece of legislation like that. Former Green MP Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking Bill, that the previous Labour Government passed into law in 2007, intended to reduce the terrible rates of child abuse in New Zealand. But the law failed to address the real causes of child abuse, so the abuse continued, with more than 20 children murdered since 2007.

The ACT Party lodged a private member’s bill to amend this legislation, and that bill had its first reading on Wednesday night. Despite 87 percent of the population deciding, by referendum, it was an intrusion of parents’ rights, only ACT’s five MPs supported it.

New Zealand is officially a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy and lacks a codified constitution. It is not officially an oligarchy, in which power rests with a small segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, or military control.

On the foreshore and seabed, as with the anti-smacking bill, our lawmakers are behaving more like oligarchs than elected representatives. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Obviously John Key would do far more for Nationals floundering popularity if he killed this ridiculous bill... ( they probably wont be re-elected if it goes through).
Its puzzling isnt it?.....91% of NZ doesn't want it and the maori party pulled about 3%? of the vote last election?
So the Nats certainly have no mandate to do it and it's being done as quietly as possible.
What is driving it? Is there more going on than we know about ?

Anonymous said...

You certainly have that right (last paragraph).
I am surprised that this issue is getting so little attention from the media given that the probable outcomes are enormous and racially devisive. Even the Labout party is quiet, but then they will be more concerned about losing the Maori vote.
Shame on them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting... I just heard on the news that Mr Key doesn't believe that any foreshore/seabed bill that Honky Harawira would support, would be palatable with the NZ public....

Well look at the figures Mr Key....its not popular AS IS....(to use extreme understatement).

If it wasn't so serious it would be laughable....

The Nats and our attorney general are being dishonest and devious with the NZ public....Why?
Are they being pressured?....Threats?

Chris B said...

91% of respondents is not 91% of the population.
ACT got 2% of the vote in the 2008 election so this is probably not a useful argument.

Anonymous said...

I think that if the whole population knew what was going on then 91% of them would be opposed to a Maori takeover of New Zealand's coastline.

It is outrageous what National is proposing - they deserve to lose the election if they go ahead and pass this law.

I just hope the public wakes up to what they are up to before it is too late!

Anonymous said...

Chris B....Ok you are right...but it still would be the majority, and it would be the vast majority if the govt wasn't sugar coating this and was honest about its ramifications...which they are not!

If people knew the truth then they could have informed opinions....but we are being scammed.

Sadly "waiting for the NZ public to wake up"...well you could be in for a long wait.
We are in a sorry state......(pardon the pun!)

Anonymous said...

Well said. It is high time for constitutional impediments and controls on our elected governments to prevent them from acting without mandate. Currently, we suffer a 3 yearly dictatorship in this country with little to stop the incumbent government doing exactly as it wishes between general elections. The smacking bill and the following referendum is a great example. I have written several times to the PM and my local National list MP asking why they thought they could ignore such an overpowering result on a referendum. The PM's secretary wrote back with banalities. My National MP won't even reply to any criticism of their administration. And we thought that we had got rid of ministerial arrogance when we bundled Labour out of office!

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the Maori Party planned for Hone to vote not in favour. It gave Key the opening to deliver the predictable lines "hone is too extreme", "doesn't reflect the views of the majority".

"Chris B said...

91% of respondents is not 91% of the population.
ACT got 2% of the vote in the 2008 election so this is probably not a useful argument."

I think your argument is even less useful.

Firstly, ACT support customary rights for Maoris. What they don't support is the current bill because it doesn't specify that NZers will not be charged for access.

Secondly, ACT have policies that people either don't agree with or are uninformed about. So just because they may be at 2%, doesn't mean they're going to fire up the polls because they're saying no to one issue.

jon said...

"Chris B said...

91% of respondents is not 91% of the population.
ACT got 2% of the vote in the 2008 election so this is probably not a useful argument."

So why not put the legislation to a referendum.
Let the public decide whether iwi should be given all these resources and power.
You know as well as I do what the overwelming response would be.

Anonymous said...

The problem for NZ's democracy:

John Key's support base: 90% traditional National voters. 10% swinging voters and Labour voters who were sick of corrupt government. Around half of these are urban trendies. It is THEIR votes that John Key is trying to hang onto, because without THEM, he will not be able to form a government next election. Enmeshed with the urban trendies, are the media. John Key happens to be building huge brownie points with the media because he is listening to THEIR wisdom instead of those dreadful reactionary 90% of Kiwis.

You want a change, you and as many as possible of the other 90%, needs to vote for ACT or its logical successor next time. NOT Winston, please, please, not Winston.

George said...

What day and a what time are the countries newspapers going to take notice of this action by the Nats and the Maori Party. Will they do anything, will they take notice or are they bought also. Is there a paper out there who will stand up and be counted for the general public??

Anonymous said...

If Key can't or won't guarantee free and open access to the foreshore and seabed for all Kiwi's irrespective of who owns it, he is history. I guess he can go and live anywhere else in the world he wishes and leave the mess for us and our descendants.
I have to say that any money or koha demanded from me for access to MY country will require the use of lethal force.

Anonymous said...

I say we have a pretend democracy and it's high time we adopted some features of the Swiss political system where the people can block unwanted legislation and initiate legislation of their own.

The reality is that once one of the two major parties gets into power they have no conscience about ignoring the wishes and concerns of the majority. It's as if they perceive us citizens as being too stupid to understand the issues let alone make some decisions on legislation the politicians are trying to push through.