Alf was never satisfied with the assurances and platitudes from Chris Finlayson, our Attorney-General, about public access to the foreshore and seabed when the issue was being argued a few years ago.
He particularly remembers ACT MP David Garrett being given the brush-off at question time in Parliament.
Finlayson was apt to insist he expected very little of the foreshore and seabed would end up under Maori customary title through the claims process in the legislation that replaced the Foreshore and Seabed Act.
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.
But ACT MP David Garrett wanted an assurance that customary title would not be granted over any parts of Ninety Mile Beach, Raglan Beach, Wainui Beach, Ohope Beach or Piha Beach.
He asked a question in the hope he would get it.
“I don’t think it would be helpful to get down to that level of detail in answer to a parliamentary question,” Mr Finlayson said.
Garrett also wanted to know how long Finlayson thought it would take for the Crown, the courts and iwi to determine the number and extent of customary titles.
“As long as it takes to get a just result,” Mr Finlayson said.
“You don’t determine the quality of justice by the speed with which things are done.”
There was lots of talk at that time about iwi being able to claim customary rights or customary title through negotiations with the Government or by taking their case to the High Court.
More important, we were told public access would continue to be guaranteed and existing private titles would not be affected.
Mind you, Hone Harawira was a Maori Party MP at that time and while the Maori Party leadership embraced the new legislation, Hone did not. He accused the Prime Minister of “pandering to rednecks”.
Mr Harawira told reporters today Mr Key had chosen not to go further and grant Maori title to the foreshore and seabed.
And what then would happen to public access?
We get a good idea in this newspaper report today:
Hunters with Department of Conservation-issued permits have been kicked out of the Urewera Ranges as Tuhoe flexes its muscles after regaining control of the national park.
Hunting in Te Urewera has been suspended indefinitely and all DOC permits to hunt or run pig dogs in the area are now void.
This has come about thanks to another of Finlayson’s surrenders.
He negotiated the deal that became enshrined in the Te Urewera Act which rescinded Te Urewera’s status as a national park. Management was ceded to the new Te Urewera Board, a joint Crown-Tuhoe partnership.
This is called co-governance.
It’s a serious blight on our constitutional arrangements, if you happen to favour a democracy, although as a loyal Nat Alf is supposed to keep quiet about his concerns.
Thanks to the Tuhoe deal, hunters are being told to piss off – unless, of course, they want to break the law.
DOC communications and engagement adviser Robyn Orchard said permits to hunt in Te Urewera were no longer available.
“We’re not issuing permits. DOC hunting permits are not being recognised by the board. That’s all I can say.”
The changes were confirmed by Tuhoe spokesperson Herehere Titoko.
“Permits previously issued by DOC are no longer valid.”
Indigenous persons for years have waved the bloody Treaaty of Waitangi and demanded the right to be consulted on all sorts of things.
But obviously this urge for consultation is a one-way street.
The deer-stalkers who are being told to fuck off do not appear to have been consulted.
Waikato Deerstalkers Association president Pete Evans said he was unaware DOC permits were no longer valid until contacted by the Waikato Times.
“There will be hunters going down there thinking they’re going to be OK. Considering it’s four hours’ drive away that’s a big deal.
“I’d like this to be resolved immediately.”
So who else should have been consulted?
The changes also have implications for helicopter operators who airlift hunters into the remote bush. None of the pilots spoken to by the Times was aware of the new rules.
Tuhoe are a law unto themselves, of course.
Ask them to return the body of James Takamore to his widow, for example, and see where it gets you.
She has taken her case to every court in the land and the courts say the body should be returned.
Tuhoe say their customary law should prevail and are disdainfully defying the courts.
So what is our Attorney-General doing to uphold the court rulings?
Yep. He is being craven, Alf suggests. He seems to be very good at it.