National has little respect for property rights, and Maori will make them pay for the Kermadecs

You’d think Governments would have learnt by now that if they ignore Maori they do so at their peril.

In a row that potentially rivals the foreshore and seabed debacle, which shook the Clark Government, the current Beehive crop seems to have learnt nothing with its plans to set up the Kermadec Ocean sanctuary.

Maori were given fishing rights around the Kermadecs in a so called full and final settlement 25 years ago. The law setting up the sanctuary overrides those rights.

Even though Maori have never fished around the islands to the north east of the country, they’re rightly taking their stand on principle. If they allow this through, they argue, then all the other Treaty settlements come into question.

That’s put the Government’s coalition cobbers, the Maori Party, in the same position that its founder Tariana Turia found herself in way back in 2004 when she walked rather than vote for the foreshore and seabed law that denied Maori their day in court.

That was a heavy handed action that Clark came to regret, not just because Labour’s Maori vote haemorrhaged, but also because it reflected badly on what were seen as bullies in the Beehive.

The Kermadec chaos has seen the eggs sizzling on the ruddy face of the minister responsible for it, Nick Smith who banged on about the lengthy negotiations he’d had with Te Ohu Kaimoana, or the Maori Fisheries Trust, and how disappointed he was that they couldn’t reach agreement.

But if the negotiations were as blunt as the statement he put out after the deal fell to pieces, it’s understandable why they failed. He said the consequences claimed by Maori were way overstated, given they don’t even fish in the area.

That of course misses the principle that a full and final settlement with the Crown is just that, regardless of the right the Crown has to create protected areas.

An opportunity to get buy-in from Maori on the Kermadecs by taking them on board early and even allowing them to take the credit has been bungled by Nick Smith who is more of a desk-bound facts and figures kind of guy.  One again, a total mismanagement of the human dimension has left a project dead in the water (sorry).  Worse, it’s likely to cost the taxpayer lots of money before it’s all put into the too-hard basket.

We’ve seen the same thing numerous times when it comes to DOC and conservation issues.  The government considers the benefits to be so self-evident that they don’t see the need to involve stakeholders and just go forward with the expectation everyone will just fall in behind.  After all, what’s so damn bad about a maritime conservancy project?

Bloody muppets.


– Barry Soper, NZ Herald

  • STAG

    The benefits are self evident, allowing Maori to muddle the water is the last thing that needs to happen.

  • jaundiced

    The mistake was treating the ocean as somebody’s ‘property’ in the first place. Fishing ‘rights’ are not the same as the inalienable rights we have to property.

  • Seriously?

    The fishing rights are a form of property. They have a value, just like a piece of land does.

    If the government wants to take your land to use for some public purpose, they use the Public Works Act and pay you the market value for your land. If they want to restrict the fisher’s property rights to achieve some perceived public good then they should have to do likewise.

    Now, if the rights have never been exercise in that area it suggests the loss in value by their restriction might be minimal or even nil, but that should at least be properly considered in an independent way (if it cannot be negotiated) just as we do under the Public Works Act.

    I think this is Act’s position on it, and I think it is a very fair position to take.

  • Boondecker

    As a matter of interest, how many Maori settlements are there now or have there been on the Kermadecs? I’m just curious as to their claim / attachment to the islands.

  • Keanne Lawrence

    Maori were given fishing rights around the Kermadecs in a so called full and final settlement 25 years ago. The law setting up the sanctuary overrides those rights. Is this true or has this come from a modern day hysteric historian doing a bit of rewriting? Was such a full and final settlement with a tribe or the entire native population?
    They really do seem to be capable of some spontaneous reaction when they hear opportunity knocking. Pity they don’t hear all the calls for help before they are silenced.

  • cows4me

    The government will be the instrument of it’s own destruction, this smacks of straight out arrogance on their part. If you are going to do a deal with people either stick to it or at the very least approach them first and talk to them before pulling crap like this. Maori may not fish here but it’s their business what they do with their rights, not the government’s nor the people of NZ. The whole plan should be given the arse, more bad governance.

    • Blueburd

      Have I got this wrong? Did Maori get given the entire area before the sanctuary was decided upon?

      • Seriously?

        As I understand it they were given fishing quota, that quota could be caught in a particular area, and the area around the Kermadecs is a subset of the quota area (and not a part in which the quota is in practice caught as that can be done closer to home).

        I don’t think this is about the exercise of customary fishing rights – it is about commercial fishing.

  • Blueburd

    “in a so called full and final settlement” There is no such thing. Iwi, even though they have been paid out, will continually come back to the table when they think they will get more.

    Hold your ground National.

    I’m looking forward to the greens coming out in support of the Nats, but I won’t hold my breath

  • lyall

    But doesnt this go against the whole principle Maori politicians and their sycophants constantly bang on about – Iwi as the self appointed, all powerful kaitiaki of the environment!
    If this guardian role is such a ‘thing’ what do we pay DOC for? and why (where i live) does it seem to be mainly Maori appearing in court for pillaging the shellfish!

  • waldopepper

    seems maori understand “in full and final settlement” when it suits them lol.

  • jimknowsall

    Any Maori with any degree of mana would gift / waive their rights to the nation in the interest of what is a self-evidently good idea and which chimes well with Maori notions of kaitiaki. Maori would take significant credit, National would get green credentials, and the world gets a fabulous marine reserve. Everyone’s a winner. Unfortunately, whether by Maori greed or political pig-headedness, we shall have a pointless court battle for an outcome that, ultimately, everyone wants anyway.

  • jimknowsall

    A couple of questions that strike me:
    1) Why was the Kermedec fishery offered up to the Maori for a settlement if they never had any historic or current interest there anyway?
    2) The government most certainly controls how land may be exploited. Even if you own a piece of land, your activities are restricted by the RMA, district plans and other laws. For example, you might own some valuable native forestry, but you can’t just decide to mill it. I see no difference with an area of sea whereby the government restricts what you may “harvest” from it. And in this case, the Maori don’t even have an ownership interest. You might suggest that fishing rights are a form of property, but continuing my previous analogy, when the Forestry Act 1949 was introduced, were landowners compensated for the loss of their ability to mill their own trees? I think not….

    • Seriously?

      I don’t think the Kermadec fishery was ever offered up to anyone. As I understand it the settlement gave fishing quota to the iwi, and the quota management area where that quota could be used includes the water around the Kermadecs (but also a vast amount of other water space closer to home). The proposed sanctuary effectively reduces the size of the relevant quota management area, but does so by removing a bit which is not actually fished (the islands are some 800 to 1000 km from the mainland).

      This is a bit different to your forestry example. The fish are still in the sea and property right (the quota) can be caught in the same way they have been, whereas the trees are the trees. But I agree with you, the landowners should have been compensated for the loss of the ability to harvest the trees. If they were not, that was wrong in my book (even if okay legally). Likewise, in principle, if your property rights are restricted by new laws or regulations (such as district plans) you ought to have a right to compensation. That could become a bit unwieldy if taken to the extreme, but if that were not an issue I’d be all for it.

      • jimknowsall

        Thank you for your response. Your argument has merit and I admire the consistency of your approach. However, I believe we ought to accept that government law making, planning and regulation necessarily involves a degree of vicissitude for which compensation is often not appropriate. Otherwise, government could never do much at all without continually paying out what is, after all, our money. Examples are endless and might include rezoning property, changing building standards, protecting kereru, altering wof standards etc etc. All have a significant impact on property rights (in a broad sense), but compensation for any of these would be ludicrous.

  • Mick Ie

    If only Maori Leaders were as heavily invested in their children rights as they are with fishing rights.

    • jimknowsall

      A cynic might suggest that they are quite heavily invested in harvesting their quota of benefits attached to said children.

  • cod

    Maori have never fished up at the Kermedecs, good grief they can even get the waka half way across Lake Taupo now without needing help from the Wespac rescue helicopter.

  • Wheninrome

    Did anyone think to discuss this with the fish and tell them shere they should swim in order that Maori could catch their quota in a certain area. How do you sort out the movement of the tide, is this a bit like maori settlements a moveable feast.

  • sandalwood789

    Maori have done as much fishing at the Kermadecs as I have on the moon.

    Grow a spine, Key, and throw out this Maori nonsense NOW.

  • bilgewater

    Quota is wholly dependent on government’s department which oversees the fishery.
    Creating fishing reserves has nothing to do allocation of quota.

  • Nyla

    It would be nice if we were all on the same page with Kermadecs reserve … its for everyones benefit that the fish are able to breed up safely to keep fishing around new zealand in abundance … at the moment theyre saying the stocks are depleted …. maori or non-maori will benefit from this happening, and no one fishes there anyway, so do the right thing people

  • Usaywot

    The question needs to be asked – why, in heaven’s name were they ever given fishing rights to territory which isn’t theirs, which they have never settled and don’t really want…unless they can get a handsome payout from it.