9 Feb 2016

Consultation on Māori land law 'nonsense'

12:57 pm on 9 February 2016

Māori groups have come to the Waitangi Tribunal's defence after Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson dismissed a draft report as "bizarre".

Attorney General Chris Finlayson

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said there had been well over 100 consultation hui on the Ture Whenua Māori Bill. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Finalyson has rejected the draft report, which was critical of proposed changes to laws governing Māori land - leaving some tāngata whenua unimpressed.

The government said the new bill, which would replace the 1993 Ture Whenua Māori Act, was designed to make it easier for Māori land owners to make decisions about how they used their land, and consultation was a key part of the reforms.

The land had the potential to produce up to $7 billion in value for Māori, Mr Finlayson said.

However, the Waitangi Tribunal's draft criticised the review process and supported claimants' views there had not been enough consultation and consensus to alter the existing law.

That prompted Mr Finlayson to slate its findings.

"I'm somewhat bemused that after four years of consultation including well over 100 consultation hui and numerous exposure drafts of the bill that that's still not enough," he said.

"I have to tell you that there has been a glut of consultation, there's been more openess and transparency on this particular legislation reform than I've ever seen in my life."

He accused the tribunal of always finding against the Crown and said the report was riddled with "factual errors".

Support for Waitangi Tribunal's recommendations

Māori Women's Welfare League president and lawyer Prue Kapua backed the tribunal and said there were 20 years of consultation before the 1993 legislation was brought in, whereas the review had been rushed.

Māori Women's Welfare League president and lawyer Prue Kapua

Prue Kapua Photo: Māori Women's Welfare League

The league had three hui that, rather than consultation, consisted of officials giving PowerPoint presentations, Ms Kapua said.

"The TPK [Te Puni Kokiri] or the government think that's consultation, they need to go back and read a whole lot of cases about what constitutes consultation, and that's been the criticism. You know these presentation hui are a nonsense."

Ms Kapua said officials had interpreted feedback to suit their agenda: to hurry the Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill through, and to make money from commercialising Māori land when not all tāngata whenua wanted that.

"The tribunal report is clear in terms of you can't just have a situation where you set up meetings, you people the meeting with a mixture of officials and advisory group people who've been appointed by the minister, and they sit there and they do a PowerPoint display about what position they're up to and call that 'consultation'.

"So for them to think there that isn't opposition and there isn't concern - they're just playing a game of ostriches, they've just got their heads in the sand."

Tairawhiti District Maori Council chair Owen Lloyd said government officials had not visited marae in the rohe and Māori with calluses on their hands, who worked the land, had not had a kōrero with them.

Owen Lloyd, of Tairawhiti District Maori Council.

Tairawhiti District Maori Council chair Owen Lloyd said Māori working on the land needed to be included in the consultation process. Photo: RNZ / Gareth Thomas

Mr Finlayson described the tribunal's report as bizarre because its finding were not going his way, he said.

"If you want to change things with Māori then you go first of all to the marae, then you go to the towns, then go to the regions.

"By then you can say 'yes, we have surely consulted with as many Māori as possible' and the first place you go to is the marae, that's where we are saying 'you failed'."

New Zealand Maori Council co-chair Maanu Paul supported the tribunal's recommendation that the Crown avoid prejudice to Māori by engaging more with those who were landowners.

He disagreed with Mr Finlayson that the report had got some of its facts wrong.

"I'm prepared as co-chair of the New Zealand Māori Council to accept an independent judicial review body's recommendations because they do not have an axe to grind.

"They were set up to ensure that Māori concerns were properly addressed by the government. Essentially the government have failed to collaborate with the Māori Council."

The Ture Whenua Māori Bill is on track for introduction to Parliament in March.

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