Labour backs down on Foreshore & Seabed Law

It is good that Labour has said it was wrong to legislate to remove the ability of Iwi to seek title in court for parts of the Foreshore & Seabed. Access to the courts should not be removed at whim by a panicked Government.

It is bad that once again they try to rewrite history about why they did so. Here is what Dr Cullen says:

“Labour believed at the time of the Ngati Apa decision that it would have been unacceptable not to respond to the Court of Appeal ruling in a definitive way. The finding created widespread uncertainty that a responsible Government needed to address.

“We responded with the best solution possible at the time. But I have always regretted the fact that National and other parties refused to enter into proper discussions on this issue, so that a broad political consensus – as has been established with the Treaty settlement process – could be reached.

Labour made their key decision before there was any attempt to get consensus. Within just a few days of the Court of Appeal ruling, Clark and Wilson announced they would legislate to over-turn the decision.

“The matter must be resolved once and for all. Now that National claims to have disavowed its previous ‘Iwi vs Kiwi’ stance and a review has been established, the potential for that broad consensus to be reached appears possible.

Labour are trying to rewrite history to portray their decision to legislate to remove access to the courts, as being the result of National’s Iwi/Kiwi campaign.  Again – the truth is Labour made the key decision to legislate within a few days of the Court decision – which was around two years or more before the Iwi/Kiwi billboard.

The sensible and principled thing to do would have been to appeal the Court of Appeal decision to the Privy Council. Labour did not want to do that as they had announced they wished to abolish such appeals, so rather than follow the law, they unilaterally changed it.

Chris Finlayson has resisted the urge to score cheap points at Labour’s expense (a lesson they could learn) and is reported as saying:

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson last night welcomed Labour’s move.

“I agree completely with Dr Cullen’s sentiment that the review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act needs to be approached in a non-partisan way, and that the issue should not be used as a political football.

“I welcome his assurance that the Labour Party will engage constructively with the review. Our goal is to reach the best possible outcome for Maori and all the people of New Zealand, and it is important that the voices of all parties in Parliament are heard.”

Of course the details of what the review panel proposes will be crucial.

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