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Speech To NZ Institute Of Surveyors Hui On Maori Land - Te Ururoa Flavell

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Te Ururoa Flavell
Te Ururoa Flavell

New Zealand Institute of Surveyors Hui on Maori Land Distinction Hotel, Rotorua, Monday 14 February 2011; 10am

Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki: I must admit I did a bit of a double take when I initially looked at I the focus of this hui.

And I want to make it very clear from the onset, that if you were looking for any expert advice or opinion on structural engineering, geotechnical and environmental engineering, hydrographic surveying or any number of hot topics that would form your agenda, well, I am sorry, I'm not your man.

My most significant qualification for this hui is that I am Maori - and I stand here on behalf of the Maori Party, proud to share with you some of the perspectives that inform and shape any contribution we can make, whether it be in Parliament or here at home in Te Arawa.

More particularly I come to this hui, my thinking informed by my whakapapa connections to Ngati Rangiwewehi of Te Arawa and Ngapuhi.

Some of you will know that the Maori view of the world is described through prkau, karakia, mteatea, whakatauk, whakapapa and many other puna korero, in other words through stories, incantations, proverbs, geneology and history.

For example, here at home I say, "Ko Tiheia te maunga, ko te Mimi o Pekehaua te awa, ko Tarimano te papa tapu, ko Ngati Rangiwewehi te iwi. Tiheia, is my point of focus on the land, Te Mimi o Pekehaua is the river, Tarimano is my sacred marae and Ngati Rangiwewehi is my tribal nation".

Every tribe in the country has a similar pepeha, a tribal saying that links them to their landmarks and of course, connects all of us to our lands. They illustrate too, the importance of land to Maori.

We are told

Ko ng mana ko ng mauri o te whenua kei i raro iho i ng tikanga a o ttou tpuna

The prestige and life force of the land is enhanced beneath the mantle of our ancestral traditions

And so as surveyors, it is important to recognise that we say our inherent mana as tangata whenua comes from the gods of creation, and through our whakapapa relationships with our landscapes and the natural environment. We are, quite simply, tangata - people - whenua - of the land; our association is intimate and direct.

In another proverb we are reminded that when we pass on, our legacy endures through our association to the land to which we have a tribal affiliation.

Toitu te whenua, whatu ngarongaro te tangata.

The land still remains when people have disappeared.

The word whenua also means "afterbirth".

Our responsibilities as mana whenua, the people of the land, is expressed in a concept we call Kaitiakitanga. In this sense, it represents the obligation of iwi to be responsible for the wellbeing of the landscape. It is a responsibility which is inter-generational in nature and may be expressed and given effect to, in many different ways.

So what does this mean for the roles you take up as surveyors, lawyers, accountants, researchers, registrars, Land information officials or members of the Judiciary?

I want to start from the perspectives of whanau, hapu and iwi.

I was interested that one of the aims of this hui is to promote the interests of surveyors as key stakeholders in Maori land tenure.

I guess the inevitable counterpoint to that is, how do surveyors demonstrate a recognition that iwi will have interests across cultural, economic, environmental and social spheres?

And if we are to really talk about stakeholders, how do surveyors ensure that they have the information and the expertise to ensure all your interactions with iwi are efficient, effective, transparent, and accountable, as worthy of a Treaty relationship?

I want to advance the position that our tupuna did not agree to sign Te Tiriti o Waitangi under duress. They came to the relationship as equals to any nation in the world.

They understood that a strong relationship with the global superpower of the day would help them to engage with the wider world from a position of strength. The Treaty partnership offered access to new ideas and technology, new cultures and new ways of life, for themselves and future generations.

And yet as successful claims to the Waitangi Tribunal have demonstrated, Maori have not been able to protect their lands, waters and other taonga, nor exercise their kaitiakitanga to the degree in which they envisaged and were entitled to under the Treaty.

Historically, the New Zealand state has not been kind to Maori. Its government and legal processes, backed by military force, confiscated our lands, or alienated them by other means, and undermined our leadership.

It was this history - this sense of looking back to look forward - which motivated me last year to present a Bill to the Parliament entitled, Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill.

The Bill responded to the clear policy direction of the Maori Party that no more Maori land will be taken via the Public Works Act. The intention of the Bill was that Maori owners will be given first right of refusal to purchase land the Crown no longer required for the purpose for which it was originally intended.

During the select committee process, we were told that historical evidence has been provided to the Waitangi Tribunal on many occasions which concluded that the Public Works Act was often used in unscrupulous ways which impacted negatively on whanau.

We also heard many times, that land that was taken under this Act and never actually used for the purposes for which the land was acquired, is an illegal use of the Act.

The Raukawa Trust Board told us that the alienation of these lands for public works has denied their ability to fully participate in the cultural and economic benefits of those lands.

Submitters emphasized that the Crown must take a more active role in protecting the things regarded by Maori as taonga. As articulated in Article II of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Crown has an obligation to protect Maori land for use by Maori for as long as Maori wish.

As the votes would stack up, my Bill didn't proceed past its second reading - and so the issues remain parked for another day.

But if there is one thing I might impress on you all, it would be to call for a comprehensive review of section 40 of the Public Works Act and all sections incidental, to be conducted by Land Information New Zealand. Such a review would, I hope, acknowledge and address historical injustices committed under the Act.

But while the legal barriers must be addressed there are other practical steps that could be taken, right now, which would promote the interests of surveyors and of Maori landowners alike, in the enhancement of Maori land tenure.

Most Maori land has trustees, and most are doing something productive with the land.

But there are also significant blocks throughout the country which remain stagnant in time and use. Their development - or lack of it - relates to the adverse effects of title disruption, the lack of development opportunities, the fragmentation and multiple ownership of tiny parcels, and the lack of access either to the land or to finance.

And so a key opportunity exists to explore access to finance, to investigate use and management of Maori land which is being under-utilised.

The possibilities are endless as long as there is finance available to make aspirations a reality.

I think about some of the emerging trends out of the work around the Emissions Trading Scheme; renewable energy projects like biofuels, as the government attempts to shift from reliance on oil and coal. There could be far better utilisation of Maori assets particularly developing the land to achieve higher value and improved productive use.

Other options might include aquafarming, or even trout farming. Just further south, we are greatly interested in the potential of the Wairakei prawn farm in Taupo; or if we were to be really creative, how about taking up the unique edge inherent in this region's unique history.

I'm talking, for example, about the Pink and White Terraces and the initiative that might be taken to develop underwater tourism at Rotomahana, as just one case in point of innovative new approaches to Maori land.

And you might have seen just a couple of weeks ago, the breaking news discovery of underwater photos showing terrace edges and lake floor sediments that have led to great speculation about how to promote and protect the unique Pink and White Terraces for ever.

The project is a collaboration involving GNS Science, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the US, Waikato University, and the Te Arawa Lakes Trust Board.

And there are of course many possibilities to better utilise and capitalise on our thermal resource, such as hot houses, thermal power generation and the indirect benefits and possibilities that come from having free heat. Within this region, particularly between Rotorua and Taupo there is plenty of land that may have thermal energy sitting beneath it.

But all of these possibilities require funding for feasibility studies; for the certainty of a surveyed title and trusteeship/corporate management before any potential can be explored.

I hope that some of these ideas might provide some room for thought as you continue to discuss and engage with the issues associated with Maori Land Tenure.

As I said earlier - I am no expert - but this is where this conversation is so important. Because, if I could leave you with one thought, it would be that Maori - and the Maori Party itself - have a passionate interest in understanding how we can achieve better utility from the land, while still protecting and respecting the sacred significance of the whenua for the generations to come.

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