Labour vs Key vs Waitangi

Opposition parties are calling on the Maori Party to walk the away from its support agreement with National over the Prime Minister’s “insulting” comments about the Waitangi Tribunal.

This is very interesting because Labour faced a similar situation in 2000 when Maori claimed New Zealand’s oil and gas production before the Waitangi Tribunal:

Jonathan Milne wrote in the Dom Post on 16 October 2000:

MAORI claiming ownership of New Zealand’s gas and petroleum resources are wasting their time with a Waitangi Tribunal hearing this week, according to the Government, because the tribunal’s recommendation will not affect its policy.

Associate Energy Minister Paul Swain said last night that he had assured oil drilling companies of continuing crown ownership of oil and petrol — and no Waitangi Tribunal hearing or subsequent court action by Maori would change that.

The tribunal had earlier asked the Government to hold fire on Taranaki claim settlements and oil-related decisions till Hawera-based Nga Ruahine’s claim over gas and petroleum royalties was heard, to avoid prejudicing the hearing.

The oil industry has been paying levies and royalties to the Government — worth up to $140 million this year — since gas and petroleum resources were nationalised in 1937.

Mr Swain said the claimants were entitled to express their view to the tribunal, but they already knew the Government’s position on ownership of oil.

“If the tribunal decision is in their favour, and it may or may not be, then I would imagine they’ll be looking to try and have that claim reinforced through the courts procedure,” he said.

“They have a right to do that, but they know the Government’s position.”

Labour’s position was quite clear then, Paul Swain was even more robust than John Key has been. He basically said that it didn’t really matter what the Waitangi Tribunal said, Labour’s policy was going ahead anyway and he even went as far as to assure oil drilling companies.

Swain’s comments of course sparked “outrage”…Jonathan Milne again wrote int he Dom Post the next day:

THE Government was jeopardising its case for keeping ownership of oil and gas resources by disregarding the Waitangi Tribunal, Maori Land Court Chief Judge Joe Williams warned yesterday.

His warning came as a senior government official conceded that Associate Energy Minister Paul Swain had a conflict of interest, in dealing with Maori concerns about drilling while accepting royalties from mining companies.

Mr Swain sparked outrage yesterday, at the start of the tribunal’s hearing into Nga Ruahine’s claim over petroleum resources, by saying that neither the tribunal nor the courts would change the Government’s petroleum policy.

Nga Ruahine kaumatua Tom Ngatai told the tribunal that Maori had been treated like a dog. “But you kick your dog so many times, and you’ll end up bitten and bitten. Possibly he’ll kill you . . . It’s all very well to say in the paper that everything’s futile, but we’re not here to say `good morning’ and go back home.”

Chief Judge Williams, presiding, asked crown lawyer Virginia Hardy to convey his concerns to Mr Swain: “You have no doubt advised your client that he is unlikely to assist his case, either here or in the ordinary courts, by indicating a closed mind.”

Mr Swain, delegated with responsibility for crown minerals, has assured international investors in petroleum exploration that their position will not be threatened.

Helen Clark even weighed in with her own view:

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the Government’s settlements were based on policy, not Waitangi Tribunal recommendations. “You can assume that the Government will proceed to settle in line with the previous statements it has made about its principles for settling.”

So, as David Farrar notes, will the opposition parties that are calling on the Maori Party to walk away from the Government on this issue, now make the Waitangi Tribunal recommendations binding on Government and Parliament. Helen Clark and Paul Swain never did…so why would David Shearer now…or is all this pure politicking without any foundation or basis in honesty from Labour and David Shearer?

We have all been here before and the result will likely end up the same…except it is far clearer on water…no one owns it. We have heard the threats and carping and whining from Maori before.

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