Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mike Butler: Finlayson’s furtive deals infuriate

A secret briefing on the deal to give $13.8-million of land in Devonport to Ngati Whatua has infuriated Auckland Mayor Len Brown. A copy of the secret briefing to the Hauraki Gulf Forum was used to berate Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and National Party MPs at a public meeting at the Devonport Navy Gym on Saturday, the New Zealand Herald reported. (1)

Hauraki Gulf Forum members come from three government ministries, six councils and local iwi. Christine Fletcher, Sandra Coney, Mike Lee, Denise Roche, Paul Downey, Des Morrison and Wayne Walker were Auckland Council's members. Roche and Coney had left by the time the secret briefing occurred, the NZ Herald reported. Takapuna-Devonport Local Board chairman Chris Darby revealed the secret briefing.

Finlayson, who Finlayson tried to explain that the deal to give Ngati Whatua the 3.2ha of land had been done transparently, appears to think that secret deals are quite normal. The Coastal and Marine Area Act legitimised secret agreements with absolutely no consultation with anyone else followed by a rubber stamp bill passed through Parliament. Treaty negotiations ministers have been following that pattern since 1989, which caused no problem when remote schools and farms were given away, but a big problem when a big chunk of a leafy suburb is involved.

The problem with the secret-deal approach is that communities won’t be told until it is signed and sealed. That means they won’t be able to challenge the validity of the claim nor set the record straight on other issues. Neighbouring Maori who might also want to claim the area won’t be told either, all of which seems of no concern to Finlayson.

The fact that such an issue has exploded in an affluent area of National Party voters poses a problem for Prime Minister John Key as he is furiously batting away problems associated with ACC, Minister Nick Smith’s embarrassing resignation, and the ongoing onslaught over the part-privatisation of power company assets which has the Maori Party arguing for Maori ownership of water.

The NZ Herald reported that political scientist Bryce Edwards said “it was unusual for Finlayson, one of the Government's most respected ministers, to face such a vigorous public grilling, especially in a National electorate,” adding that "at the moment, the Government doesn't seem to have the authority it had during its first term."

And since the Marine and Coastal Area Act was passed, in Matauri Bay, local renegades been wheel-clamping visitor’s cars and carrying an eftpos machine to demand money. The wheel clamping is a sign of what’s to come once tribes gain ownership of coastal areas. Kamo Intermediate School principal John Smith paid $800 to free four cars clamped when students recently went to Matauri Bay for a surfing lesson. (2)

But the principal will get the money back from Ngati Kura Inc , the "renegade" group of Matauri Bay, after police were called in to investigate. Matauri X, the incorporation that administers Maori-owned land at Matauri Bay, said Ngati Kura Inc was a renegade band of hapu members with no authority to impose wheel-clamping in the area.

Three tribes have lodged claims:
• Te Raroa – the lower half of Ninety Mile Beach and the coast from Ahipara
to Hokianga Harbour, including Herekino and Wangape harbours, and the
Northern side of the Hokianga
• Ngati Porou ki Hauraki – Kennedy Bay south past Whangamata, east
• Ngati Pahauwera – claims in coastal northern Hawke’s Bay

Once tribes gain ownership of coastal areas, some will disregard the law that says free beach access and if they are not as blatant as carrying eftpos machines, they will intimidate and demand koha. Fishermen, boaties and surfers who drive on the beach will have to pay – it will all turn ugly.

When will our prime minister realise that Finlayson’s tribal affirmative action will create a wave that could wash National away?

1. Mayor blasts secret land-deal meeting, NZ Herald, Sunday, April 1, 2012,
2. Wheels clamped at Matauri Bay beach, NZ Herald, Sunday, April 1, 2012,

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