An Attorney-General and Treaty Negotiations Minister with more backbone is desperately needed. A bloke like Alf.
Fair to say, Alf did volunteer his services to The Boss before the Cabinet was selected after the last election. John Key said the job required a greater knowledge of legal stuff than Alf’s regular viewing a few years back of Rumpole and, more recently, Boston Legal.
Chris Finlayson was his choice.
A dubious one, as things are turning out.
Alf observes that the Government’s proposals to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act ran into opposition at the very first meeting on the issue.
Mr Finlayson was attending a hui in Picton, the first of 22 meetings to be held throughout the country.
Maori attending the hui at Waikawa Marae raised concerns about having to prove customary rights in the Government’s preferred option.
It seems several iwi representatives said that they should not have to prove their rights and that customary rights should be restored to what they were before the legislation was changed.
So what’s the next thing we learn?
Fasten your seat belts, folks.
TV3 told us last night –
The Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has made some major concessions tonight on the Government’s proposals on the foreshore and seabed.
One bloody meeting so far with a few stroppy Maori, a few objections raised, and Finlayson is making bloody concessions?
What sort of shape will we be in at the end of the consultation process?
Alf is putting his money on a few splutterings of outrage around the country when people digest what Finlayson told TV3’s The Nation.
For example, Maori may be able to build hotels on the foreshore – and stop others from developments unless money changes hands.
The current Crown ownership of New Zealand’s beaches antagonises Maori and National wants to put it into what’s called “public domain”.
Some iwi will then get the right to seek what’s called “Customary Title” – and today on The Nation the Government spelt out what that means.
“[What is customary title?] It’s a constrained form of property right it doesn’t inhibit public access it’s unable to be sold,” says Finlayson.
So TV3 asked Finlayson: could it mean a hapu or iwi awarded Customary title, team up with wealthy investors Chinese investors and build hotels on the foreshore the iwi has title to.
Dunno why they specified Chinese investors. It’s American outfits like the Hilton hotel chain that have been keen to destroy good marine views with their ugly buildings in Alf’s experience.
But the answer is more important than the precise nature of the question.
“[Would Maori with customary title be able to get away with that?] Oh yes but they would be subject to the RMA and other pieces of legislation it’s not proposed that they have self governing entity.
The proposals also give coastal iwi with customary title major rights to veto developments – like marinas.
Mr Finlayson says like normal business – money could change hands to make sure developments go ahead.
“We’ll I’d expect in the normal course of these things there’d be a negotiation,” he says.
And now for the king-hit (or queen hit, if you prefer).
…Mr Finlayson says iwi should by-pass the courts and prove their case to him personally.
“I’d be much happier to negotiate with people and if these things can be sorted out through negotiations than that’s great,” he says.
But wait, as the ads say. There’s more.
The controversial 2004 law also vested all minerals around the coastline with the Crown.
National now it appears willing to compromise and hand some minerals back into the hands of Maori with “Customary Title”.
“I can rule out petrol, gold silver uranium I’m prepared to listen to other people about those other minerals,” says Mr Finlayson.
He says he’s already talked to Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee about the compromise.
Do we have much time to kick up a hullabaloo over this absurdity?
And the Government will confirm all the Foreshore and Seabed changes by the end of May.
Alf sees no great threat to his personal political interests. His Eketahuna North electorate has no foreshores or seabeds.
But he does wonder what the rest of the country will make of Finlayson ‘s concessions.
And he wonders how many more concessions will be made by the Attorney-General before the end of May.
He recalls that Finlayson addressed an outfit called Rainbow Wellington (we don’t have clubs like this in Eketahuna North) before the last election.
The occasion was described as “a chance for the LGBT advocacy network to find out more about their Vice Patron, and ask him about National’s policies on gay issues.”
Speaking to a group of about twenty members and friends of Rainbow Wellington at Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Bar on Courtenay Place, Finlayson confirmed that his key interests in politics are Treaty Negotiations, legislative reforms, and Arts and Culture.
He described himself as an “odd fish” – being a liberal conservative politically, openly gay and Catholic, and he jokingly reckoned he was looking forward to dying, just to see where he ends up.
Alf is strongly tempted to aid and abet him realise this ambition before more concessions are made and we find Maori have been given back ownership of the whole bloody country.