Plenty to update you on today whānau, so let’s get straight into it:
- The Government yesterday announced a delay to its flagship partial asset sales programme to consult with Māori over the “Shares Plus” concept floated by the Waitangi Tribunal. I too am intrigued about this concept and am trying to learn as much as I can about this. Keep an eye out for some analysis later in the month. There are already some concerns being floated about the adequacy of the proposed consultation, especially with the possibility that the Māori Council will not be the first port of call for the Government. I have no problem with this. The Government has a duty to consult with Hapū and Iwi and, as far as I am concerned, the Māori Council has no mandate to represent either.
- That aside, I am still confident that the Government will proceed with the asset sale programme in 2013. As I have said before, it is a key policy platform of this Government, and the main objection from Iwi is that they are being shut out of the process, and would like compensation for the loss of water rights in the form of preferential shares. No matter how much the left would like to spin this as the end of the sales programme, the claim was never about stopping it completely – rather it was a vehicle designed to ensure that our rights as Māori are recognised so that we are in a position to first, protect such rights and, second, to profit from such rights.
- Speaking of the Waitangi Tribunal, its recently released report on the freshwater and asset sales claim comes in at over 250 pages. The short version is that a) Māori in 1840 held, and continue to hold today, some form of proprietary right over water; and b) the Government proceeding with the asset sales programme without making provision for redress with Māori over this issue would be a breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Little surprise to see Rodney Hide come out and critique the report, saying that the Waitangi Tribunal is being influenced by myths and songs. Once again illustrating the belief of many on the right that private property rights do not exist when they are Māori property rights.
- In a development which has potentially far-reaching implications for the Governments mandating policy in Northland, CYFS has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Ngā Puhi over child welfare. (Other Iwi have also signed). Precisely which Ngā Puhi did the Government treat with on this occasion? The constituent Hapū who constitute the federation or the Runanga who claims to represent Ngā Puhi but is facing serious dissent from within the Rohe? Yes, it was the latter. While the aims of the Memorandum of Understanding are laudable, the Crown has acting in bad faith towards the large number of Ngā Puhi Hapū who do not recognise the mandate of the Runanga and are actively challenging this through the settlement process.
- Legal challenges over the Crafer Farms sale continues today, with news that the Māori Hapū who initiated the claim are getting set to appeal to the Supreme Court. My advice would be to stop throwing good money after bad in this case. The likelihood of overturning a Judicial Review decision by the High Court, and upheld by the Court of Appeal is not high. And even if they win, all the Supreme Court can do is direct the Government Ministers to re-make their decision.
- And finally, the University of Waikato is this week holding the annual Māori Lawyers Conference, which doubles as the inaugural World Indigenous Lawyers Conference. The organisers have put together a smashing programme, bringing together some of the greatest indigenous lawyers from New Zealand and around the world to speak on a wide range of indigenous issues. I will be in attendance and will bring you updates of the conference as it progresses. While we are on the topic of conferences, I am still in the process of compiling my notes of the workshops and research presented at the Legal Histories of the British Empire Conference I attended in Singapore back in July. Keep an eye out for my whākaro on this later in the year because there is some fascinating work being down in this area – work that provides real insights into the experience of Māori over the years, in the context of the British Empire.