It’s become bloody hard to work out exactly what the bloody Attorney-General knows about the amount of foreshore and seabed destined to end up in Maori customary title, under the Government’s deal with the Maori Prty, its economic potential subject to a Maori veto.
He either has a feeble grasp of what he is doing – in which case The Boss should sack the bugger real fast – or he isn’t being as candid as Alf would like him to be.
If he is playing fast and fancy free with the truth, as Alf strongly suspects, The Boss should sack him for that too.
Alf (and the public) were given the firm impression by the NBR and other media a week ago that …
The Government expects very little of the foreshore and seabed will end up under Maori customary title through the claims process in the legislation that will replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act.
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson told Parliament today iwi would be able to make claims and if they succeeded their customary titles would carry development rights and the ownership of minerals except for gold, uranium, silver and petroleum, which are owned by the Crown.
A criteria for claiming customary title is continuous use and occupation since 1840, and Mr Finlayson was asked how much of the foreshore and seabed he expected would be subject to customary titles.
“I believe we are not talking about very much at all…at the end of the day I do not believe it is going to result in very much more of the foreshore and seabed being the subject of customary title,” he said.
Alf would like to think Finlayson had been spot on when he made that remark, although he does acknowledge that the Attorney-General happens to be a politician, and political assurances are worth diddly squat on.
He especially hoped Finlayson was spot on with that remark because there were ominous signs of Maori leaders already flexing their muscle, laying claim to customary title, then buggering the economy by exercising their newly gained right of veto over their domain.
Ngati Porou – for example – were saying they believed new rights under the foreshore and seabed legislation will give them greater powers to control petroleum mining.
The East Coast iwi is expected to seek customary title over the foreshore and seabed within its area under the new regime. This would strengthen its ability to veto any mining of Crown-owned minerals, including petroleum, within 22.2 kilometres of the shoreline.
Ngati Porou’s territory includes part of the 12,000sq km Raukumara Basin, where the Government has just given Brazilian company Petrobras a five-year permit for petroleum exploration.
Ngati Porou chairman Apirana Mahuika said the Petrobras exploratory mining was of great concern to Ngati Porou, especially given the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
Its current deed of settlement gave it some rights to approve developments, but the “new regime would give us better instruments legally to counter mining of the foreshore and seabed. It would give us greater protection for future mining and exploratory mining in our area.”
And what did the Attorney-General have to say about this?
It was a lackey who explained things, actually.
A spokesman for Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said that although iwi with customary title would not own the four nationalised minerals – gold, silver, petroleum and uranium – they could refuse access to them or come to an access arrangement which could carry commercial benefits for the iwi.
Any non-Crown owned minerals would be owned by the iwi.
Well, bugger me, says Alf.
Next thing you know, someone will be telling Gerry Brownlee to forget about digging up the national parks for their mineral wealth because some bloody bunch of iwi will be exercising a right of veto that Finlayson has been instrumental in giving them, unwitting or otherwise.
Much more dismaying is Finlayson’s understanding of the meaning of “not much”.
We now learn he believes about 2000km of New Zealand’s coastline will eventually be covered by iwi customary title.
These would include areas of the upper East Coast, the eastern Bay of Plenty and “way up North”, he said on TVNZ’s Q and A yesterday.
But he would not elaborate.
“I wouldn’t want to fetter any government’s negotiating position, or position in court, that would be held against the Government or a future government, if I started to say ‘well that bay’s in’,” he said.
Finlayson has bloody good reason not to elaborate, Alf fears.
If the public only knew what he apparently knows about what’s afoot on the wretched seabed and foreshore issue, they will want the Government thrown out of office as surely as it would be dumped if it pursued a programme of privatisations. There are some things voters won’t stomach.