Metiria Turei

Goff delivers wedge to split the left

by Metiria Turei

For all the indignation at the response to his speech , what did Goff expect whanau and hapu would hear in it?

He starts with a criticism of Hone, he attacks the Maori Party, he promotes unjust treaty settlements and he defends the discriminatory foreshore legislation. And all delivered to a predominately Pakeha audience. How could whanau and iwi and those on the progressive left respond in any other way but with severe criticism? What exactly was the message here, who was he really talking to and about what?

I personally struggle as to what it is I am most disappointed about in his speech.

Lets take the foreshore. Goff said, in defending legislation considered by many whanau, hapu and Pakeha to be indefensible:

But for all the criticism I have heard, most people accept that the current foreshore and seabed rules aren’t broken and they’re a good foundation for moving forward. They believe it’s good legislation for all New Zealanders….It’s hard to see why the country should be put through all the grief just to put a new brand on law that’s working…. If the foreshore and seabed issue is left for the courts to resolve, we could be tied up in knots for years. The government has a choice between sticking with the status quo, which guarantees access but allows for agreements around customary rights, and the alternative of never ending court battles….National wants to reopen the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Labour asks: What isn’t working? Will reopening court action help or would it see wounds fester?

Labour has never understood the impact of their utter rejection of Maori over the Foreshore. They have never understood the seriousness of slamming the door in the face of whanau and hapü over the issue. Because that was who really paid the price – the small coastal iwi and hapü who would never have the resources to fight or to lobby or negotiate.

Goff claims in his speech that the legislation is working because Ngati Porou did a deal with Labour under it, but what about Aitanga a Hauiti, who lost their treaty rights to their coastal rohe? Labour’s foreshore legislation picked the “large Maori corporates” as the winners and shut out the smaller iwi. Coincidentally, Goff also levelled this same criticism at National and the Maori Party in his speech:

Instead, it’s just done a deal to advantage some large Maori corporates, which other forestry companies do not get from the government, which will give the Maori corporates an estimated $1.75 billion. Let’s be clear. This deal will not benefit Maori as a whole.

I agree that the ETS deal won’t benefit whanau, but it’s completely inconsistent to then say the foreshore legislation was good because big iwi like Ngati Porou could benefit. Pot calling the kettle black.

The disloyalty by Labour to these smaller iwi was severe. It takes real leadership to say you got it wrong. Cullen’s, somewhat conditional back track on the foreshore issue in April this year certainly did not go that far, but it opened the door just a crack, showing they at least recognised a failure of judgement even as they tried to justify it.

Cullen’s position gave Labour some wiggle room over future foreshore changes. It is highly unlikely that much of the Labour scheme will change even if the Nats repeal the existing law. Labour could claim both some success of their scheme with the voters they wooed with the original act, and win some Maori support through a dignified acknowledgement that change was necessary.

At best, I could say that maybe Goff was trying to do that with this speech on the foreshore as there is some recognition of the Cullen position in it:

Back in 2004, Labour’s process on dealing with the issue, in a different environment, could have been better…

But when read alongside the other criticisms it still just comes across as anti whanau, intended or not.

Labour will be frustrated that National will get credit for foreshore reform despite their racist and despicable 2005 anti Maori campaign. But that’s one of the costs of losing an election, hell, we’re all pissed at that.

But this frustration mustn’t distort the bigger picture here: the progressive left must rebuild links with the diverse communities who are suffering under this government and that includes whanau and hapu. Goff, for all his possible intentions to build a sense of ‘nationhood’ simply delivered to National a great wedge with which to divide us.

Meyt says

Published in Featured | Justice & Democracy | Society & Culture by Metiria Turei on Tue, December 1st, 2009   

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