Monday, April 2, 2012

Mike Butler: Secret treaty deals not acceptable

A secret briefing on the deal to give $13.8-million of land in Devonport to Ngati Whatua, revealed at a public meeting at the Devonport Navy Gym on Saturday, has infuriated Auckland Mayor Len Brown, and has sharpened a feeling of injustice in the North Shore community.

A copy of the secret briefing to the Hauraki Gulf Forum was used to berate Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and National Party MPs, according to news reports. Takapuna-Devonport Local Board chairman Chris Darby revealed the secret briefing. Finlayson, who 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.

Treaty negotiations ministers have been doing secret deals since 1989, followed by a rubber stamp bill passed through Parliament. This caused little 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 this secret-deal approach is that communities aren’t told until agreements are signed and sealed. That means they can’t challenge the validity of a claim nor set the record straight on other related issues. In this case, the community had fought hard to gain reserve status for the Devonport land to protect it for future generations in public ownership. That should have meant that the land could never be sold or exploitation without the approval of the community. It is no wonder local residents feel so violated.

Last year the government extended secret deal-making to cover coastal areas being claimed under the new Marine and Coastal Area Bill. This will mean that this sort of community anger could become commonplace if the public suddenly find that their local beaches have been given away and areas declared wahi tapu to exclude public access, without their knowledge.

Secret deals are an anathema to open democracy and transparency. Any iwi claims to local land and resources must be discussed with the local community before the deals are signed and sealed. Locals, whose lives will be impacted by such decisions, deserve to know what is going on. Secret deals should no longer be tolerated.


Kiwiwit said...

Hear, hear. Finlayson needs to learn that he works for us, the citizens and taxpayers of New Zealand and that we pay for these settlements. Who does he think he is, the bloody Duke of Westminister?

Anonymous said...


I recently attended the public meeting at Devonport Navy Gymnasium convened by Minister of Treaty Settlements, Chris Finlayson, to peddle the Crown’s shabby and secret deal to transfer ownership of the lion's share of Fort Takapuna Reserve to Ngati Whatua o Orakei.

The Minister misrepresented to attendees that the meeting was part of a round of public consultation. We were also told the public would have the opportunity to make submissions before the proposed transfer went to Parliament for possible ratification.

It turns out the Crown and Ngati Whatua had already stitched up an agreement in late 2010 that the tribe would get the land. Since the National and Maori Parties have enough votes to rubber stamp a done deal, anything the public has to say won't make a blind bit of difference to the outcome.

While Parliament, as the highest court in the land, can lawfully modify its prior enactments by way of fresh legislation, "legal" doesn't necessarily mean "moral."

It was always the understanding of North Shore residents that when the Navy had finished using Fort Takapuna, it would revert to its underlying reserve designation as public open space under the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000.

In taking questions, the Minister refused to engage when I pointed out that the Crown’s dealings with Ngati Whatua are a house of cards resting entirely on an uncritical acceptance of the tribe’s claim to “mana whenua” over the Auckland Isthmus.

As outgoing Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, observed in his 1922 farewell address: "In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King, and he that does not know his own history is at the mercy of every lying windbag."

Anonymous said...

In September 1840, Ngati Whatua sold (not ‘gifted’ as is often claimed today) the 3, 000 acres of land on which Auckland City now stands to the Crown for cash and goods. Over the next two years, the tribe similarly alienated a further 29, 000 acres. Once something is sold, it’s gone for good, and the seller has no further claim over it.

In any event, like so many early land sales, Ngati Whatua’s ownership claims at the time of sale were tenuous at best. Before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, Maori tribes owned nothing in the sense of legally enforceable property rights.“Customary Title” is merely a temporary localised occupancy of land and use of associated resources for as long as one could physically exclude competing groups.

As a case in point, Ngati Whatua were not the first occupants of the Auckland area. Originally based further north on the Kaipara Harbour, they colonised the locality around 1750 by exterminating its former occupants, Te Waiohua.

What goes around comes around. In the 1820s, the Tamaki Isthmus was repeatedly invaded by musket-toting Ngapuhi. The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand records that as a result: “much of the isthmus was abandoned as tribes sought shelter in the Tainui region.”

Historian, RCJ Stone, notes: “fear of Ngapuhi prevented them [Ngati Whatua] from occupying their old home for many years afterwards, indeed, not until Auckland was founded [in September 1840] did they feel safe [to come back].”

Leading Ngati Whatua chief Āpihai Te Kawau signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Manukau Harbour on 20 March 1840, where the remnants of his hapu had been living for a number of years after fleeing from Ngapuhi. He did so after inviting Governor William Hobson to make Auckland his capital and offering to make land available for this purpose.

Ngati Whatua thus “sold” to the Crown land they’d cravenly vacated more than a decade before. They got paid for land they hadn’t used or occupied in any meaningful sense for a very long time.

The "sale" placed the Governor and his troops between Ngati Whatua returnees and renewed hostilities from Ngapuhi. As well, payment from the Crown underscored to neighbouring tribes that the mana of the land “remained” with Ngati Whatua, though in fact it had been long since extinguished by Ngapuhi.

While a clever stroke of business from both a practical and a Maori perspective, this hardly supports demands from Ngati Whatua for political and economic control over Auckland's iconic public landmarks.

In response to another question from the floor, Tiwana Tibble, Chairman of Ngati Whatua o Orakei Trust Board, advised the meeting that the Trust has "around 5, 000 beneficiaries."

In ignoring the inherent unsustainability of Ngati Whatua’s “mana whenua” claim, the Minister of Treaty Settlements and his advisers have made a call that the demands of a handful of Aucklanders of Anglo-Ngati Whatua descent should trump the rights of 1.3 million other Aucklanders (and more specifically 230, 000 residents of the former North Shore City) to their public open space.

Anonymous said...

It should also be pointed out unequivocally that Minister of Treaty Neogitations, Chris Finlayson, is hardly the impartial defender of the public interest that one might expect in the role.

In a past life before entering Parliament, Finlayson was a lawyer who worked on Ngai Tahu's Treaty claim.

There is nothing worse than a "Wigger" -- someone who would sell out his/her own race for that warm glow which comes from membership of Club Virtue -- as defined by Gramscian Marxists who colonised the academy in the late 1960s with the goal of socialising their students into a "Race, Gender, Class" world view.

A more polite way to put it within the Gramscian Marxist paradigm is "an intellectual from a dominant group who has been induced to switch sides."

Finlayson, Lord Montrose of Drury, and their ilk are filth on the face of my country.

One expects this pus from the Labour Party, but NOT from National!

Anonymous said...

I have seen it suggested that Finlayson is being paid off by the Maori - not that I would suggest any such thing, of course. He is merely being loyal to his past employers!

grundle said...

In legal circles it would be prudent and in fact a requirement for Finlayson to declare himself conflicted in his role as Minister of Treaty Settlements. How can he 'serve two masters'? We are seeing the results of a biased and compromised individual here. As a citizen and tax payer I am incensed at the inaction of a dozzie, dummed-down population. New Zealand wake up!! Think about more than "I'm OK Jack"; more than 'Shortland Street'.... doesn't watching that tripe speak volumes about the inteligence of a vast proportion of the population !!
Finlayson, you work for me; I pay your inflated salary; cease imediately from your self serving ways or get out of Parliament before you are kicked out along with the rest of the National Party. I have voted National all my voting life, but after observing the wholesale gifting of land; foreshore; airways; Forestry; Fishing Quotas; and now Auckland city coastal land, where is all this heading?? It is time the National Party is sat on its backside and told in no uncertain terms to represent ALL Kiwis and not just the 'special / chosen few'. (all of whom are more European than they are Maori...and don't tell me they are Maori because they 'feel like they are'.. what a load of bolics. They will feel that way because there are $$$s in it for them...nothing more, nothing less!! Culture...Yeah Right!!

Anonymous said...

Here is a quote regarding the substantial cash payment for Auckland. It comes from the pioneer missionary Robert Maunsell where he remembers a great event that he missed out on.
“Maunsell missed one of the most spectacular events of early Auckland history – the great Remuera hakari – three day celebration given by all the local Maoris in April 1844 to greet the new Governor Fitzroy and to mark the completion of the purchase of Auckland – and share out the proceeds of £25,000. Seventeen tribes from Hokianga to Kawhia assembled and 3000 came from the Waikato alone. …The feast was given by Te Wherowhero and the Wesleyan chiefs Wetere and Putini. There was a wall of potatoes in flax baskets, five feet high and three feet thick extending over a quarter of a mile; and on poles above it, 20,000 dried sharks were stretched out, filling the air with a remarkable fragrance. There were many speeches, impressive services at the churches on the Sunday, important consultations took place and a haka that shook the ground was performed by 1,500."
Convert this in today's dollars and it was a fantastic price for a bit of 'wasteland' - a bargain for Maori at the time.
In contrast to today's shady deals in the past efforts were made to ensure land sales were honourable and fair. Nearly all post Treaty sales were cash - gold actually.