Finlayson on Treaty settlements

February 7th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Finlayson wrote on Waitangi Day:

Some people say they want an end to historical settlements. Most people agree. I do. Maori want them resolved as well.

For a while it seemed as if this might never happen. The process, which had started with fanfare in the 1990s, was crawling along at a snail’s pace for much of the 2000s.

One briefing to the previous government optimistically predicted all settlements could be completed by the year 2060.

That has changed. The completion of all settlements is now an achievable goal. It can happen, with the goodwill of all parties, in the next few years.

Of the big settlements, only really Ngapuhi to go.

The settlements will end not because Maori and the public have tired of them, but because they are finished.

The Ngati Kuri will bring to 42 the number of settlements this Government has signed with iwi. That brings the total to 68.

National’s policy since the 1990s has been to address real grievances by reaching full and final settlements with genuine claimants in a timely fashion. Are there non-genuine claims? Certainly, just as there are vexatious cases in the common law courts. They are easy to spot. We are not interested in claims about the ownership of wind, for example.

Or the airwaves!

We are determined, however, to put right the thoroughly and accurately documented cases of hurt caused by the Crown’s wrongful actions in the past. This is what Treaty settlements are about.

The faster we settle these claims, the sooner there is an end. The sooner we settle, the sooner iwi can see the benefits of their settlements, and the sooner all New Zealanders benefit from moving on from grievance. Justice delayed is justice denied.

And the good news is that the completion of settlements is closer than many people think.

The number of remaining settlements is fewer than 50. Many of the remaining claimants have signed agreements in principle setting out the broad parameters of their settlements, and the Crown is engaged with almost all groups.

We are well on the way to the end. And the sky has not fallen. Despite dire predictions from a small minority at the beginning of this process, the quality of life of most New Zealanders has not been affected in any way. Beaches, national parks, rivers and mountain ranges are still enjoyed by everyone in exactly the same way they were before.

What has happened is that iwi have invested in their people and their regions.

Rather than blowing the proceeds of Treaty settlements, as was again predicted by a vocal few, most have acted wisely and developed the capacity of their people.

This is true. Even Tainui which had some problems a decade ago, is doing very well now.

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The Finlayson style guide

January 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

By popular request, Chris Finlayson has published his office style guide. I especially like the phrases to be avoided:

  • I note
  • I am aware
  • I understand
  • Delighted
  • Strategy
  • Accessible
  • Outcome
  • Passion
  • Passionate
  • Stakeholder
  • Community
  • National Identity
  • Nationhood
  • I acknowledge
  • ‘Sense of self’
  • cutting edge
  • engage
  • strengthen our voice
  • shared experience as a nation
  • Celebrate

Also how to be succinct:

  • Sentences should be as short as possible. Avoid wordy phrases that can be said more simply.  For example, amend:

      –  ‘in my view’ to ‘I think’; 

      –  ‘I am writing to thank you’ to ‘Thank you’;

      –  ‘you have stated that’ to ‘you said’;

      –  ‘I trust that’ to ‘I hope’;

      –  ‘I wish to acknowledge’ to ‘I acknowledge’;

      –  ‘there are of course’ to ‘there are’;

      –  ‘I would like’ to ‘I want’;

This style guide may catch on!

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The Finlayson style guide

January 18th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Here’s a heads-up to staff in Chris Finlayson’s office – he is passionate that they should not sloppily split infinitives, or use Oxford commas.

Ten pages of guidelines have emerged, setting out the language the culture minister expects officials to use in correspondence and briefing papers.

It is accompanied by speech-writing instructions, with a list of more than 20 banned expressions.

Staff are forbidden to use “heads-up” and should instead plump for “early” or “preliminary indication”.

Also out in his language jihad are “process”, “outcome”, “community”, “stakeholder” and “cutting edge”.

Excellent. All words that often mean nothing.

Mr Finlayson, who is also attorney-general, harbours a special dislike of Oxford commas, split infinitives and any extraneous uses of “that”.

“The minister has commented ‘commas hunt in pairs’. This would, for example, look like this’,” the memo instructs bureaucrats.

It is somewhat sad the Minister needs to point this out.

A two-page guide was also compiled for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage as “a list of pointers about things the minister does and does not like in his speeches”.

“Use plain English. Avoid waffle at all costs. Get to the point quickly. State the point. Move on,” it reads.

“I have always preferred the understatement,” Mr Finlayson admitted.

“People use passionate when they mean like, or unique when they mean vaguely fashionable.

“It’s like what happened in Rome when classical Roman broke down into vulgar Latin. The more intensive adjective or verb was always used over the classical one. And I have this objection to that happening to the English language. It’s just my little jihad.”

Entirely appropriate the Minister sets the style for his own speeches.

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A history of the Labour Party

June 27th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Finlayson yesterday gave a very amusing (and accurate) history of the Labour Party.

While talking about all the previous leaders who have been undermined by their colleagues he amusingly refers to Geoffrey Palmer being most undermined by “Geoffrey just being Geoffrey” :-)

UPDATE: The video was on autoplay. This was not intended. I just embedded the Herald video, and for some reason they like forcing people to view videos. I have now swapped the embed code for the You Tube version.

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Best Govt response yet

April 30th, 2013 at 1:45 pm by David Farrar

Global Metal Apocalypse writes:

Global Metal Apocalypse is adding a new dimension to the site and it may be the first time that a music blog / site has done this, if it is then what can we say? Other than let this new adventure bring greater achievements and a greater global established presence as I conduct interviews and / or gain quotes from different nations in particular their culture ministers on how Heavy Metal is viewed in their country, bring out the controversy and support, this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Focusing on a host of established and highly underground metal scenes, this post is aiming to express the feelings of Heavy Metal in the respective country outside the core community by trying to voice opinions and views that ministers of culture express and at the same time seeing if the world’s most extreme music genre has impacted on the traditional cultures of the specific nation.

They contacted the NZ Govt:

I directed an email to the right honourable Christopher Finlayson of whom is the minister for arts, culture and heritage in New Zealand, upon receival of his reply he had forwarded his answer through his press secretary Mr. Ben Thomas. Owing to New Zealands small metal scene recognition, it has a fair number of metal bands going around regardless of how well known bands like Ulcerate have garnered international attention, it would seem that the general public only know New Zealand for kiwis, the mountainous terrain and Lord of the Rings, but even Saruman took up the opportune moment.

And then the reply from the NZ Government:

There is no official government support for young people to learn instruments for use in metal music. The government does fund an initiative called Sistema Aotearoa, which enables primary-aged children from disadvantaged communities to learn classical music under the instruction of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. It is not inconceivable that these young players may one day end up accompanying power metal groups such as Nightwish as part of a full orchestra, or providing ominous strings and horns on a black metal record by the likes of Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir”.

You have to enjoy a response to a question about promoting heavy metal by quoting how the Govt is helping poor kids learn classical music!

Hat Tip: Dim-Post

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Finlayson on the Crown Minerals Bill

April 12th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Enjoy.

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Finlayson on Section 7 reports

February 10th, 2013 at 1:41 pm by David Farrar

I got sent a link to this video of Chris Finlayson as Attorney-General talking about his role in advising Parliament under Section 7 of the Bill of Rights Act if a proposed law is unjustifiably inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

I thought at first it would be one for the policy wonks only, but I think many might enjoy his typically blunt appraisals. Chris also reveals that he doesn’t just submit whatever the Ministry of Justice or Crown Law says on a bill, but will often draft his own reports or majorly rewrite their drafts.

Some quotes:

  • also (report) on a couple of members’ bill which are shockers like Holly Walker’s ridiculous lobby legislation which seems to breach almost every provision of the Bill of Rights
  • How the disgraceful Foreshore & Seabed legislation avoided a Section 7 report beats me
  • The Electoral Finance Bill, which was frankly a Stalinist piece of legislation introduced by Helen Clark in her third term to pay the National Party back for doing so well at the 2005 election, breached numerous provisions of the Bill of Rights yet it never received a Section 7 report.
  • This is the 19th floor of Bowen House. As you can see I look down on all of my colleagues in the Beehive … Don’t put that in the film

Chris also said that if he thinks a proposed bill is likely to get an adverse Section 7 report, some of his colleagues will then work with him to amend the bill so that it avoids conflicting with the Bill of Right Act.

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AG and SG appointed QCs

December 13th, 2012 at 12:34 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced:

Prime Minister John Key today announced Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson and Solicitor-General Michael Heron have been appointed Queen’s Counsel. The rank of Queen’s Counsel recognises outstanding contributions to the legal profession.

The appointments are the first to be made under recent amendments to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, which restored the title of Queen’s Counsel.

“Both Mr Finlayson and Mr Heron have been appointed Queen’s Counsel due to their career achievements and the leading positions they hold among New Zealand’s legal profession,” says Mr Key.

“In New Zealand, it is recognised the Attorney-General, as first Law Officer, is the leader of the legal profession. The office’s responsibilities are of constitutional significance.”

Before entering Parliament in 2005, Mr Finlayson practised law in Wellington for over 25 years, including as a partner at Bell Gully, and became a barrister sole in 2003. He has represented clients in all of New Zealand’s courts and tribunals, including nine appearances in the Privy Council.

“Christopher Finlayson is one of this country’s finest legal minds,” says Mr Key. “His achievements speak for themselves. He is an outstanding barrister and this appointment reflects the responsibility he holds on behalf of the Crown.”

Mr Heron was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1990. He was a partner in Meredith Connell from 2000 to 2007 and then in Russell McVeagh from 2007 to 2012, when he was appointed Solicitor-General.

“Subject only to the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General is the Government’s chief legal adviser and advocate in the courts. A key responsibility of the Solicitor-General is to advise the Government of the day on constitutional questions,” says Mr Key.

“Like Mr Finlayson, Mr Heron is a respected lawyer in the profession and this appointment is a reflection of the responsibility of the office he holds.”

Notes: 
Previous Attorneys-General appointed Queen’s or King’s Counsel:

Rt Hon Paul East, QC – 1995
Hon Dr Martyn Finlay, QC – 1973
Hon Sir Clifton Webb, QC – 1954
Hon Henry Mason, KC – 1946.

I’m delighted with this long overdue appointment for Chris Finlayson. As noted, he was one of the pre-eminent NZ litigators with a near record nine appearances before the Privy Council.

QCs are effectively approved by the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General, and recommended by a panel consisting of the Presidents of the Law Society and Bar Association.

Finlayson was recommended by the panel in 2005, approved by the Chief Justice, but vetoed by then Attorney-General Michael Cullen (a non-lawyer) on political grounds. It was one of the more malicious acts done by Cullen (whom I generally respect)).

I’m very pleased to see Chris made a QC. He will not remain in Parliament for life, and I am sure will make a great contribution as a QC in future.

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Treaty Settlements

December 6th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A few weeks ago I sent an OIA request to the Office of Treaty Settlements asking for the following information for each historic grievance negotiation and settlement.

While I (like most people) are not overly impressed by modern claims such as the Maori Council for ownership of water, I do believe that it is very important to have fair, full and final settlements over the historic grievances of the 1800s.  Getting these settled will allow most Iwi to focus on the future, rather than past grievances. Ngai Tahi is a great example of that.

I believe it is a win-win getting these settled faster (so long as full and final), rather than slower, as it is good for the Iwi and also good for the country to get them behind us.

There are five main steps in each treaty settlement. They are:

  • Terms of Negotiation agreed. This is not a particularly significant step. It is basically just saying this is who we are negotiating with, and what the issues are
  • Agreement in Principle.  This is arguably the most difficult step. It is the basis of the final settlement, and includes the quantum of reparation (note that is not always the most difficult issue though).
  • Initialling of draft deed of settlement. This is a near automatic step after the agreement in principle, and it is after this step that negotiators go back to Iwi members for ratification
  • Signing of final deed of settlement. This is also a very important step. At this stage, the agreement is final, subject to legislation.
  • Enabling legislation. This is near automatic also, and is just a matter of finding time on the legislative calendar normally.

Now we’ve had five Treaty Negotiations Ministers. I’ve colour coded the table below to show them. They are:

  • Doug Graham 1991 – 1999 in light blue.
  • Margaret Wilson 2000 – 2004 in red
  • Mark Burton 2005 – 2007 in light brown
  • Michael Cullen in 2008 in dark brown
  • Chris Finlayson from 2009 – 2012 in darker blue
As you can see Doug Graham started them off, and saw through the two largest ones of Ngai Tahu and Tainui, along with a few others in 1999.
Margaret Wilson in four years only managed five agreements, and finished off three of Graham’s.
Mark Burton did just two agreements in three years. So for seven years, there were just eight agreements in principle. At that rate we’d still be negotiating these in 2050!
Michael Cullen did a pretty good job of picking the pace up. He did 12 agreements in just one year!
And Chris Finlayson in four years has done 48 agreements or settlements. We won’t make the goal of having all settlements done by the end of 2014, but we’ll be pretty well advanced towards it.
Even those who are not fans of the settlements, should appreciate the benefits of getting them done sooner or quicker. No party in Parliament (from ACT to Mana) claims these should not happen. They will occur – it is just a matter of how fast, and for how much. I’ll do a separate post on the quantums, but they do not vary greatly by Government as there is a lot of care taken with internal relativity.
My thanks to OTS for the data on which I based the table.
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Finlayson gets Transtasman MP of the Year

December 3rd, 2012 at 7:49 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson has been named politician of the year by Trans-Tasman, beating off challenges from Prime Minister John Key and Green co-leader Russel Norman.

The judges in the political newsletter’s annual “roll-call” said Mr Finlayson, who is also Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister, had “given away a national park to Maori, and no-one seems to mind much. That’s pretty good going”.

They gave him eight out of 10 for his performance this year – the same as Mr Key and Dr Norman – noting “his disdain for his political opponents is palpable – one of the sharpest debaters in Parliament”.

His increasing stature as a politician and member of the inner circle was evident when Mr Key gave him responsibility for the Labour portfolio when Kate Wilkinson stepped down after the Pike River royal commission.

The Herald also gave Finlayson top marks, so a bit of a consensus there.

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Speech of the Week

November 15th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Jane Clifton writes at Stuff:

Nick Smith even detailed how he and Government colleagues had helped the “coupsters” find the plot meeting, as many had wandered round Bellamys lost. David Cunliffe had arrived looking like the Messiah in search of his apostles, so Dr Smith said he had given him directions to the private room. He had also assisted Jacinda Ardern.

“You grunted through a mouthful!” she contradicted him.

“You can’t even organise a proper coup without help from National MPs,” Dr Smith crowed.

Most helpful was “Nasty”, Mr Finlayson, who used his general debate speech to assist Labour MPs’ appreciation of their own history.

With several having attended a conference last weekend on the legacy of the late Labour prime minister Norman Kirk, he took the opportunity to correct the conference’s spelling of people’s names and several errors, and to remind them of some Kirk contemporaries whom they seemed to have “airbrushed out” of their retrospective, “including Roger Douglas, who was such a fine postmaster-general!”

The conference had been convened by the Fabian Society, which Mr Finlayson claimed was run by “a self-styled historian who runs a dairy in Mt Roskill”.

It had also been attended by Green MP Kennedy “I charge you with eco-cide!” Graham. “Lovely guy, just a shame he immatures with age,” Mr Finlayson sighed.

If they felt disrespected or patronised by Mr Finlayson’s comments, Opposition members had been reassured, during a question time exchange, about his motives. “I dwell in the land of high emotional intelligence!” he told Parliament with a theatrical flourish. “I speak from the heart.”

They probably dared not think what a Finlayson speech from the liver or spleen would be like.

The Finlayson speech is here. It’s wonderfully amusing.

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The Tuhoe settlement

September 12th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Finlayson announced:

After consultation with iwi members, Te Kotahi a Tuhoe have accepted the Crown’s offer to settle the historical claims of Ngai Tuhoe, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson and Ngāi Tuhoe Chief negotiator Tamati Kruger announced today.

“The Crown and Ngai Tuhoe will now work together to develop a Deed of Settlement by the end of 2012,” Mr Finlayson said. “Once completed, the Deed will be initialled by the negotiators. If the deed is then ratified by iwi members, the settlement will be signed and given effect through legislation.”

That is a huge achievement. Many thought no settlement would ever be reached. The history of grievances so extensive, that a resolution acceptable to the Crown and Tuhoe was so difficult. Some may associate Tuhoe with the clown Tame Iti, but that is unfair. They have just over 30,000 members and there were some appalling things happen in the past such as the Volkner Incident.

I’m no fan of these claims for water and wind and the like. But I do think settling the historical grievances is very important – both for the Iwi involved and New Zealand. The historical settlements have been taking place over the last 20 years and the end is in sight.

Patrick Gower blogs:

The Government’s settlement with Tuhoe can be described in one word: monumental.

Monumental because it overcomes over 150 years of grievances.

Monumental because of the reconciliation of the most fractured relationship between the Crown and Maori.

Monumental in financial redress – it matches the other big settlements even though Tuhoe is not as big population wise.

Monumental because Te Urewera – a National Park – will instead become its own legal entity.

And monumental because of the possibilities that “Mana Motuhake” opens up for Tuhoe to develop as its own nation in the decades to come.

Tuhoe suffered some of the worst breaches by the Crown – the “scorched earth” policy, confiscation, the execution of unarmed prisoners – known at at the time as “extermination”.

But now Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has found a way to settle it.

He has reached agreement with Tuhoe and for that he needs to be applauded – it will be his legacy.

The details of the settlement are here. With Te Urerewa the settlement is:

Who will own Te Urewera?

No one will own Te Urewera. The members of the governance board, both Crown and Ngai Tuhoe nominees, will act in the interests of Te Urewera, like trustees or directors of a company. They will not act on behalf of either the Crown or Ngai Tuhoe.

Will Te Urewera still be a National Park

Te Urewera will have a new legal identity established, and have its governance and management arrangements set out in its own act of Parliament. Key provisions of the National Parks Act will be included in the Te Urewera legislation, including protections for the natural and historical heritage and public access.

The new legislation will ensure that the land is managed to an internationally accepted standard for national parks.

What about public access?

Public access will be guaranteed on the same terms as now.

Will this create a precedent for other national parks?

No. This settlement addresses particular history and circumstances. Te Urewera is unique because the park and Ngai Tuhoe’s core area of interest are almost identical. There are many pockets of Tuhoe land in and around the Park and the two are inseparable and in many cases indistinguishable. Popular roads and hiking trails currently cross private Tuhoe land.

Also some details on the history:

Ngai Tuhoe did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Crown had no official presence in Te Urewera before the 1860s. Ngai Tuhoe, remained in full control of their customary lands until 1865 when the Crown confiscated much of their most productive land, even though they were not in rebellion and the confiscation was not directed at Ngai Tuhoe. The prejudice created by the confiscation was exacerbated by the Compensation Court process which returned much of the confiscated land to other.

After the confiscation the Crown waged war in Te Urewera until 1871 as it sought to apprehend those responsible for the 1865 death of Crown official, and then capture Te Kooti following his escape from Crown detention. The Crown extensively used “scorched earth” tactics, and was responsible for the execution of unarmed prisoners and the killing of non-combatants. Crown officer at the time described it as “extermination”.

In 1870 Ngai Tuhoe were forced out of Te Urewera and detained at Te Putere where they suffered further hardship. The wars caused Ngai Tuhoe to suffer widespread starvation and extensive loss of life.

In 1871 peace was restored to Te Urewera when the Crown withdrew its forces and agreed to leave Ngai Tuhoe to manage their own affairs.

Between the 1870s and the 1890s Crown pressure and the claims of other iwi led to the introduction into Te Urewera of the Native Land Court, surveying and land purchases despite Te Whitu Tekau opposition. In 1875 the Crown induced Ngāi Tuhoe to sell a large area of land at Waikaremoana by threatening to confiscate their interests if they did not sell.

Off memory the major outstanding settlement now is for the Far North Iwi.

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Bill of Rights report on the Lobbying Disclosure Bill

June 12th, 2012 at 3:01 pm by David Farrar

The Attorney-General has delivered the required report on how the Lobby Disclosure Bill by Holly Walker complies with Bill of Rights Act. The conclusion is that it would be an unjustified limitation of the right to freedom of expression. Some extracts:

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. George Washington remarked “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” …

The AG also quotes former Green MP Keith Locke:

“… All should be given the right to express a view no matter how disconcerting it should be, on even the most difficult or abhorrent of issues… Implicit in free speech is the idea that the community benefits from an untrammelled exchange of views and that every participant might have something to add to our enlightenment.”

Quoting the wisdom of Keith Locke on a bill by a Green MP, means that presumably the Greens won’t attack the opinion as one they disagree with.

The conclusion is:

Whilst a requirement to register as a lobbyist and the imposition of various obligations to disclose publicly information about lobbying activities undertaken do not prevent expression, they do limit the ability to express information freely.  Some people may be dissuaded from expressing themselves because of the implications of the Bill. 

I therefore consider that the Bill is prima facie inconsistent with s 14 of the Bill of Rights Act.

Then the question is, can the limitation be justified. The AG says that some regulation can be justified, to increase transparency but:

The limits on freedom of expression sought to be imposed by the Bill are greater than reasonably necessary to meet the objective.  This is because, primarily due to poor drafting, the Bill goes well beyond the activities of professional lobbyists to include a wide range of other activities.

An example:

The Bill will also capture people who send a one-off email to their Member of Parliament on behalf of their incorporated farm or small business regarding any government policy.  This is because the Bill does not exclude from its scope organisations who are not professional lobbyists and do not have significant involvement in lobbying.  The Bill may also capture a person from a media outlet who arranges a face-to-face interview between a journalist and a Minister.

This means:

 Individuals in the examples above may restrain themselves from making communications if they did not want to be considered a lobbyist and incur potential criminal sanctions for communicating with Ministers or Members of Parliament.  This is an unacceptable and dangerous limit on freedom of expression.

And finally:

This Bill significantly limits core democratic expression. In going well beyond what would be required to regulate the activities of lobbyists, it risks creating a chilling effect for average New Zealanders who may fear criminal sanctions for merely communicating with a Member of Parliament on behalf of their business in relation to government policy.  This would be an unacceptable limit on a core element of freedom of expression.

I favour the bill going to select committee, but it is clear that it will need to be significantly amended to proceed beyond select committee.

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Watts Peninsula

November 2nd, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Finlayson announced:

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson today announced the establishment of a 76 hectare reserve for the people of Wellington and New Zealand on the iconic Miramar Peninsula.

The new reserve area, known as Watts Peninsula, is a prominent Wellington landmark at the northern tip of the Miramar Peninsula and a historically significant part of New Zealand. …

The land is currently owned by the Defence Force and is home to a number of historic military gun emplacements, pa sites and former ammunition magazines.

Work is under way to develop the land as a public reserve.

Reserve status will retain the land in public ownership and also ensure the area receives full heritage protection, Mr Finlayson said.

In addition it will enable the preservation of indigenous flora and fauna, such as native orchids, skinks and little blue penguins.

This is a great decision. I am probably one of the most frequent visitors to Watts Peninsula. Used to camp next to it, and have spent many a day exploring it.

The area has a lot of historic gun and battery emplacements. Most of them are in the open, but there are some hidden ones also. In the pine forest, there is one old battery which is very hard to locate. The entrance is a fairly narrow steep hole in a bank, but then it opens up to various rooms and tunnels down below. I’ve even slept overnight in it.

This area is above and near the Massey Memorial. It provides some of the best views of Wellington Harbour. I’m really pleased to see it made into a reserve. It is one of our better hidden secrets, and it will be cool if more people over time get to enjoy it.

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The Literary Achievement Awards

August 23rd, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Bronwyn Torrie at the Dom Post reports:

A literary dame, an internationally published poet and a celebrated historian have been recognised for their impact on New Zealand’s literary landscape.

Dame Fiona Kidman, Peter Bland and James Belich received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement at Premier House in Wellington last night. Each receives $60,000.

Established in 2003, the annual awards recognise writers who have made significant contributions to non-fiction, poetry and fiction.

I happened to be at the awards last night, and it was lovely to see the awards presented to some of our literary giants.

Two of the awards were presented by Arts Minister Chris Finlayson, and one by Opposition Arts Spokesperson Steve Chadwick. I thought it was a nice touch, to share the presenting duties.

The funniest moment of the night was when Finlayson was making his introductory remarks, and greeting the various MPs, Ambassadors and other VIPs there. He saw Justice Joseph Williams in the audience and quipped “Good to see Justice Williams here, I presume he is here as his recent judgements are a finalist for the literary fiction award“.

It’s a rare sight to see the Attorney-General dissing a High Court Judge. Lots of laughter, including I suspect from Justice Williams.

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Hikoi #2

March 23rd, 2011 at 11:27 am by David Farrar

Martin Kay at Stuff reports:

As far as numbers go, the hikoi that arrived at Parliament in the icy wind and rain to protest against the Marine and Coastal Area Bill was a faint shadow of the huge outpouring of emotion against the law it will replace.

In 2004, more than 20,000 people marched to oppose the Foreshore and Seabed Act amid angry scenes that culminated with activist Tame Iti spitting at the feet of deputy prime minister at the time Michael Cullen. By the time the crowd reached Parliament, the momentum had fuelled an unstoppable grassroots movement that gave birth to the Maori Party and, a year later, its dominance of four of the seven Maori seats.

Yesterday’s protest, by comparison, was a sedate affair, with a little over 300 people marching in silence before staging a mock tangi on Parliament’s lawn.

The hikoi was around 1.5% the size of the original hikoi.

But regardless of size, those marching have every right to protest that this law doesn’t give them what they want. They think Iwi and Hapu should have customary title to the entire foreshore and seabed, rather than only the areas where there has been exclusive and unbroken use since 1840.

Must have been nice for a hokoi to turn up to Parliament and not be called haters and wreckers and have the PM declare she’d rather meet with a sheep.

The worst “abuse” they got was Chris Finlayson who was asked what he got out fo the hikoi, and he answered “I got wet” :-)

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Campbell on Artists v Journalists & Bloggers

January 31st, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Gordon Campbell writes at Scoop on the Government’s response to the jailing of Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi. He quotes the letter from Chris Finlayson which says:

We also raise the human rights situation in Iran in statements at the United Nations, including cosponsoring the UNGA 3rd Committee Resolution on Iran’s Human Rights. We will continue to express our concern at restrictions on the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Iran, including the imprisonment of journalists, bloggers, and filmmakers such as Mr Panahi.

Now Gordon may be quite right to criticise the Government for relying on statements at the UN to improve human rights in Iran. But here’s what Gordon says in his critique of the Govt’s response:

Finlayson apparently believes Panahi’s case is not exceptional, nor his treatment particularly egregious. In fact, we appear to have an Arts Minister unable to tell the difference between an artist of Panahi’s stature, and journalists and bloggers.

Oh goodness – what an insight into the Wellington cultural mindset. Governments shouldn’t do anything beyond the normal statements at the UN to protest against jailing of journalists and bloggers, but when the detainee is an “artist of stature”, then they must move mountains.

Is this attitude linked to the leave Roman Polanski alone movement, because he is also an “artist”.

Personally as a blogger, I’m rather glad Chris doesn’t see bloggers and journalists as less deserving of freedom from detention, than artists of stature.

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Finlayson answers Coastal Coalition Q+A

December 3rd, 2010 at 8:36 am by David Farrar

This is a useful feature. The Coastal Coalition has a Q+A  on the Marine and Coastal Area Bill, and Chris Finlayson has responded to it with answers of his own.

For those who want to learn more about the issue, worth a read.

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Hell

November 18th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett in the Herald reports:

When an invitation is issued to a remote place, it is polite to also provide directions – especially if the route involves the Highway to Hell.

A land protest group’s invitation to Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson to travel to Taipa to visit them came with a driver to ensure he did not get lost – the Maori Party’s Sat Nav, Hone Harawira.

However, Mr Finlayson’s counter-invite to those protesters to “go to hell” had Labour MP Shane Jones baffled.

Most people would agree with the Minister’s strong disapproval of an illegal occupation of private land.

Curious about this invitation, Mr Jones stood in Parliament yesterday to find out more. He put to Mr Finlayson that when he told the protesters to go to hell, “what directions did he have in mind and whom did he think they might meet there?”

The minister declined to provide the GPS co-ordinates or the current hosts.

However, he had some inkling of the likely future inhabitants, observing, “Well, Trevor Mallard isn’t dead yet.”

Heh.

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Pecuniary Interests

June 22nd, 2010 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard blogged:

There was some publicity recently about Jonathan Young’s carelessness in relation to his declaration of pecuniary interest.

This week it is all about the hapless Chris Finlayson who is already in serious trouble for the way he kept on changing his description of his relationship with a Supreme Court judge in whose favour he intervened.

Trevor calling Chris hapless is a bit like me calling Usain Bolt slow.

Now it has emerged that Finlayson helped set up a company in 2006, after he became an MP,  and became a director then and has failed to declare it on any return since that date.

Trevor goes on to declare that Chris must stand down as Attorney-General due to this issue.

I’m amazed after the incidents of 2008, any Labour MP who was an MP in 2008 ever has the decency to try and talk with credibility about the Register of Pecuniary Interests. Hypocrisy is not an adequate term to describe this. It is more akin to the CEO of BP going lectures on environmental protection and good public relations.

In case anyone has forgotten let me remind you that every single Labour MP voted that Winston did not breach the rules of the Register when he did not declare a $100,000 personal donation from Owen Glenn, and also tens of thousands of donations from the Velas.

Even worse, Glenn was seeking appointment as a Consul, and the Velas had racing interests which benefited greatly from funding for the industry (such as prizes) which Winston got Labour to agree to.

Now this was exactly what you have a Register for – the abuses uncovered by the Privileges Committee (with help from the SFO) were as severe a conflict as one can have. Undisclosed personal donations from people you were championing.

And what was Labour’s response to the compelling testimony and proof, that exposed Winston as a liar and have broken the rules? They voted against the recommendation of the Privileges Committee, and oh yeah banked $100,000 cheque from the Velas a few days before the 2008 election, when it would not have to be declared until afterwards.

So pardon me while I vomit up, as I see any Labour MP thinking they have any integrity on this issue. It was a low point for parliamentary integrity – and not a single Labour MP had the guts to vote with their conscience.

Anyway back to Trevor’s allegations, I quote from a statement put out to those inquiring:

Since 2006 I have been a  director and shareholder of Te Puhi Trust (2) Limited, with two other directors.

The incorporation is a corporate trustee for a family trust. The incorporation owns no assets – Te Puhi Trust (2) limited exists only to be a trustee for the family trust, Te Puhi Trust (2), whose beneficiaries are the family and charitable causes.

I have no pecuniary interest in any of these entities, as confirmed in a letter from the trust’s lawyer today. Accordingly, I did not declare the directorship of the corporate trustee for the family trust as a pecuniary interest on the Register of Pecuniary Interests. There is no precuniary interest.

I have sought advice this morning from the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests as to whether a directorship with no pecuniary interests should be declared on the Register of Pecuniary Interests. I expect to have an answer tomorrow.

Now it is possible that the Registrar may say this should be disclosed, but if this is the case this is a technical breach which involves no possible actual gain by not having declared it. If Winston was a 95 on a 1- 100 seriousness scale, this is around a 2 or 3.

Trevor compares the issue to the problems David Parker had in 2006. Now I will agree that the A-G needs to be held to a higher standard of accountability than a normal MP. But the problem David Parker had is that his declaration that a company had resolved not to have an auditor was disputed by an aggrieved minority share holder who said this declaration was false as he had not agreed. It later transpired that the aggrieved share holder was no longer a share holder, but Parker actually thought he was a share holder when he signed forms saying share holders had unanimously agreed. But his case had an alleged victim claiming disadvantage.

Anyway let’s enjoy the hypocrisy of Labour claiming there is no need to disclose $100,000 donations towards your personal legal fees, but that you do need to disclose a non-pecuniary directorship.

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Finlayson on The Nation

April 12th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A very interesting interview of Chris Finlayson on The Nation at the weekend.

DUNCAN Well what is actually wrong with Mr Harawira’s idea of effectively Maori title, inalienable, you can’t sell it, absolute public access to all New Zealanders, what is wrong with it, is it just that it’s not politically viable for you?

CHRIS Well I think we agree on a lot of things, we agree on inalienability, we agree on public access, what I’m simply saying is that public domain provides a useful starting point, if you were to say absolute Maori ownership, I think the question that would inevitably arise Duncan is, well which Maori, which iwi, which hapu, and I think there could be a lot of cross claims, so I think that the proposal that we’ve put forward is a more sensible way of dealing with it, but look I’m out listening to folk and I’ll see what they’ve got to say.

A nice rebuttal pointing out why the idea of outright Maori Title is a bad one. I also think it is bad because there it would also take us massively beyond what the Court of Appeal said.

DUNCAN I just want to drill down into the report which came out last week about customary title, clearly the government wants to award customary title, let the courts have a look at it at least. What is customary title?

CHRIS There is absolutely no law on customary title in New Zealand, it’s a very vague concept, so what we’re saying is it’s a constrained form of property right, it doesn’t inhibit public access, it’s unable to be sold, there could be a title issue but not under the Land Transfer Act which deals with land, and so we’re not talking about that type of title, but a title could be issued under this legislation, and there’ll be rights to develop and so on, so it’s if you like a constrained property right, which will be available to those who can establish that they’re entitled to it.

Again a nice way of describing customary title – a constrained property right.

DUNCAN So would it allow for instance an iwi with a customary title say in the Bay of Plenty to do a partnership deal with if you like the Chinese government who come forward with a 100 million dollars and say we want to build a number of resorts on your land, lease it to us over 100 years, would Maori with customary title and iwi be able to get away with that?

CHRIS Oh yes but they’d be subject to the Resource Management Act and subject to the other if you like general pieces of legislation, it’s not proposed that this would be a sort of a self governing entity once it was established, so any kind of development would be subject to the usual RMA principles.

This part has got a few people talking, but people should note a number of key things. The first is any development could not be done on beaches – only on the foreshore which is the area between high and low tide.

The second is that as there is no right to block access, building a resort would be very very difficult. And thirdly one would still have to pass the RMA hurdle which would be massive if it was proposed for an area of popular frequenting.

The key thing Chris made clear is that Iwi can use customary title for commercial purposes, subject to the RMA. And this is no surprise to those who have followed the issue, as it has always been about commercial development to some degree – back to the original court case.

CHRIS Well there are two classes of minerals I think we have to talk about, because pre 2004 petroleum had been nationalised, in fact was nationalised by the Labour government in 1937, silver and gold and uranium have always been nationalised minerals, so then there are the other minerals, you’re quite right that that is an issue that I imagine folk are going to want to raise with me, and I’m listening to what they say, and I’m also talking with Gerry Brownlee about that issue.

DUNCAN So are you effectively saying here this morning that you perhaps are willing to compromise around that minerals issue because it’s quite important to Maori, well certainly the Maori I’ve spoken to.

CHRIS Oh I think the socalled traditional reserved ones, Gerry’s already said are off the table, I’m prepared to hear what folk have to say in the course of my hui and public meetings, and then I’ll report back to the Cabinet.

DUNCAN So you’re not ruling out a possible compromise there are you, because right now as we look at your proposal it basically repeals and holds on to that, so you’re not ruling out a compromise with iwi after this series of hui?

CHRIS Oh I’m saying that I can rule out petroleum, uranium, silver and gold, I’m prepared to listen to other people on those other minerals.

Ruling things out in advance of consultation tends to be counter-productive. That does not mean the Government has agreed to them. Also worth noting that this is not about minerals in the entire seabed – only in areas where a claim to customary title is accepted.

What would be interesting is what minerals, outside the four excluded ones, are in the seabed?

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The Foreshore & Seabed proposals

March 31st, 2010 at 2:53 pm by David Farrar

The 65 page full consultation document is here.

The key aspects are:

  • repeal the Foreshore & Seabed Act 2004
  • no one to “own” the foreshore and seabed, placing it in the public domain
  • guaranteed public access to all, subject to certain limitations in discrete areas (such as health and safety restrictions around ports, or restrictions around urupa/burial grounds)
  • recognition of customary rights
  • protection of existing use rights to the end of their term
  • restore the right to go to Court to establish customary title, based on common law principles
  • customary title will not be able to be made into freehold title
  • no change to current private ownership of any parts of the foreshore & seabed
  • two tiers of rights can be sought – customary title and customary rights

I think this is a significant improvement over the current law. It passes the two critical tests of guaranteeing public access, and of restoring the right to go to court to pursue common law and other rights.

I also like the idea of the foreshore and seabed being in public domain, with no ownership at all. That means it can’t be sold without special legislation. It also means that the 30% in private ownership won’t increase.

I’m all for private ownership of most things – but not the foreshore.

A key issue unresolved is whether any claims should go to the High Court or Maori Land Court or both.

This issue is hugely complex and Chris Finlayson has done very well to get this proposal out there. Maoridom does not speak with a single voice, so doubtless there will be varying degrees of support for it, but I hope most will see it as an improvement over the status quo.

I also hope most non-Maori will agree that it is a bad precedent to have the Government remove the right of any group of New Zealanders to test their legal rights in courts, and that repeal of the FSA will be a good thing.

This is stage three of a four part consultation process.

The first stage was people submitting their views to the expert panel.

The second stage was people submitting their views on the recommendations of the panel.

This third stage allows people to submit their views on the proposals in the paper.

And after this consultation, a draft law will be drawn up, and the fourth stage will allow people to submit on the proposed law.

The process of genuine consultation can be almost as important as the substance of the issue. It was partly the then Government’s high handed nature with the FSA and EFA that galvanised opposition to them. The EFA was drawn up in secret and the FSA started life by having Clark and Wilson declare they would legislate no matter what.

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Herald Diary on Finlayson

March 13th, 2010 at 10:55 am by David Farrar

The Herald’s Diary:

The New Zealand International Arts Festival rolls into its final week. Among the virtuoso performances has been one by Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson, although we are not sure he was supposed to have been the one performing. However, his chairing of an Arts Talk session with esteemed Russian-born conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy had the tongues wagging. To say the minister was well-briefed was an understatement. He had prepared no less than 25 erudite and highly detailed questions to put to Ashkenazy.

Here’s one example. “Once former British Prime Minister Ted Heath, an accomplished conductor, was asked whether he preferred conducting orchestras or chairing cabinet meetings. He answered ‘the former’ because orchestras have a unity of purpose, the players work toward a common goal, the output is excellent and they accept the leadership of the conductor. You have never been stuck in a Cabinet meeting but, thinking of all the orchestras you have worked with, is what he said about working with an orchestra been your experience? Did you know Ted Heath? Is it true of Italian orchestras that they are impossible to conduct?” And that was just the first question.

I’m surprised Chris only had 25 questions!

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Finlayson on Auckland Treaty Settlements

February 1st, 2010 at 6:12 am by David Farrar

Chris Finalyson writes in the Herald:

An important election commitment made by the National Party in 2008 was to set a goal of concluding just and durable Treaty settlements by 2014.

The reasons were simple – by healing the grievances of the past, all New Zealanders could move forward.

It was not an option to forget the past and the legitimate claims of iwi, but nor did we want to be stuck there. Settlements ultimately benefit everyone.

Getting past grievance mode is a win-win.

It should be borne in mind when National became the Government in 2008, there were about 60 settlements outstanding. Fully 20 per cent of these are claims in the Auckland region.

Dr Cullen did a good job in making progress on settlements, but alas his Labour predecessors not so much.

Sometimes iwi ask for a say in how a natural resource can be looked after. Again, Ninety Mile Beach – Te Oneroa a Tohe – provides an example.

Not only is it of spiritual significance to Maori but it also was an ancient food-gathering area, for the famed toheroa and for mullet.

Those food stocks have deteriorated over the years and the iwi wants some say on how the beach can be restored. This seems reasonable given the historical connection they have with the beach and so the Government is prepared to involve those iwi in looking at ways in which environmental damage can be repaired for the good of all beach-goers.

Sounds reasonable.

These are exciting times. The opportunity exists for concluding just and durable settlements throughout the Auckland region, something that a few years ago would have been regarded as a pipe dream.

Iwi are keen to get on with the business, the Crown is keen, and everyone agrees that public access can never be compromised.

That is why this Government is moving with such determination to resolve historical Treaty issues. Settling historical Treaty claims by 2014 means just that – settlements have to take place.

Governments cannot just talk about settling – they actually have to do the deals. The Crown and Maori are determined to work together to undo the heavy burdens of the past and move on. It is a time for optimism and positive thinking.

The 2014 target is ambitious, maybe even aspirational. But it would be a massive achievement to have all major historic treaty claims achieve final settlement during this Government’s tenure.

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R v the Internet

December 3rd, 2009 at 11:32 am by David Farrar

The seminar on the Internet and the Courts has been really good so far. You can follow it on Twitter here. It is also being filmed and will be viewable on the Internet.

Chris Finlayson gave a very amusing and interesting opening address. Referred to how someone once threw a cat at a Judge and the Judge said if you do it again, it will be contempt. It is indexed in law journals as “cat throwing-contempt-one cat allowed-two cats is contempt”.

He also said how relieved he was to find the room full of relatively normal people (ie lawyers) rather than Farrar-like hobbits :-)

Professor Tony Smith had what I considered a good suggestion that the Courts have a staffer who proactively looks for material before a trial starts that may be pose a risk to a fair trial, and asks voluntarily for temporary removal.

Solictor-General David Collins talked about how Internet issues take up a large amount of his time, and the inability of getting Yahoo to remove material. Is seeking an agreement between governments to seek to enforce each other’s court orders to ISPs. There are some risks with this approach, as if publishers are deemed to be subject to the laws of every country they have readers, the lowest common denominator can apply.

Steven Price said that compulsory filtering only happens in repressive countries like China and Australia. Heh. Said genie was out of the bottle but not sure if it is a problem. Thinks there should be less use of contempt.

Robert Lithgow QC said he was probably only person in room who has prosecuted for contempt, defended people for contempt, has been charged with contempt himself and in fact appears shortly in the Supreme Court for Vince Seimer over his contempt issues.

He agreed with Steven Price largely and said the law of contempt is fundamentally buggered and only getting at the nutters now. He also said that there is no constitutional significance to modern commercial media as we don’t need them now, as bloggers are the public! Said the press are watchdogs and mongrels. They bark indiscriminately and only interested in food and biting!

Radio NZ Political Editor (and Chair of EPMU Media Committee) Brent Edwards said Internet got around censorship in even most sinister regime, so will do so in countries like NZ.

Robert Lithgow suggested all court cases should have a static camera so people can view over Internet, and not rely on the media so much. I agree entirely.

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