A draft document setting out Maori aspirations for DOC land obtained by Judith Collins points to a growing issue within Government.

POLITIK has spoken to a number of senior public servants who say there is a concern that Maori expectations, particularly over co-governance, are growing and that they may end up being disappointed because of fears of a Pakeha backlash.

It is clear that National Leader Judith Collins is ready to ride any backlash wave.

She claimed yesterday that a draft Department of Conservation report from its Options Development Group meant Labour had “adopted a view that the Treaty guarantees partnership in governance. “

There is, however, no evidence that the document she produced was anything other than an internal discussions document within the Department.

It appears not to have been signed off at any of the Department’s senior management levels, and it has not gone to the Minister.

That is not surprising.

Like many Government departments, DOC has been reviewing its role and structures as it prepares to deal with what is effectively a new government with new priorities.

In the process it is obviously canvassing a wide range of “blue skies” options. But until (or if) they are confirmed by the Cabinet they are simply that, options.

Collins said the DOC group was recommending that the ownership model of the DOC estate be reformed; “that functions and powers for the DOC estate are delegated, devolved and transferred to Tangata Whenua.

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“Remember, this isn’t just the National Parks; it’s the entire DOC estate – 85 per cent of the West Coast,” she said.

The document itself suggests that the legal status of conservation land be recast.

This would recognise “the enduring relationships that Tangata Whenua have with the land and the indigenous species within them.”

This would “reform the ownership model of public conservation lands and waters avid waters to reflect the enduring relationships Tangata Whenua have with  these places  and the resources/taonga `that reside within them.”

It said DOC should undertake a review of all classifications applied to public conservation lands and waters to recognise Tangata Whenua relationships.

It should also revoke Crown ownership of indigenous species, resolve Tangara Whenua rights and interests in the fresh water and marine domains and ensure Tangata Whenua access to and use of all species and resources managed within the conservation system, including within the context of permissions and concessions.

National established the idea of Tangata Whenua playing a key role in the ownership and management of DOC land with the Te Urewera Act 2014, which established a nine-person board to administer what had been the Urewa National Park.

Five of the nine members are from Tuhoe, four appointed by the Government.

National created this under the guise of a Treaty settlement.

Collins, however, is calling for a national debate on implementing the kind of proposals contained within the DOD document.

“I don’t want to see New Zealand become a two-system country without having a proper discussion,” she told a regional party conference in Napier yesterday.

Collins aid that discussion should include what the role of the Treaty should be.

She then stated what she said were her views, “the National Party view.”

“ Māori are the first people of New Zealand, and Māori people, culture and reo are at the heart of New Zealand’s unique national identity,” she said.

“ All of New Zealand holds this culture as special.

“Supporting Māori to enhance Māori culture and language enhances New Zealand’s culture and language.

“The National Party agrees that the Treaty is our founding document.

“To this end, I am encouraged by discussions about including a Treaty clause in our National Party constitution.

“The Treaty has an important role in our democracy today.

“The Treaty was breached by the Crown. These breaches, including the land wars, had a terrible impact on Māori communities and left a lasting legacy.

“It is right that we continue to address these wrongs, and it is right that we undertake settlements with iwi and hapū impacted by Treaty breaches.”

Unlike her speech last week at the regional conference in Auckland, she did not repeat the “Hobson’s Pledge” claim that “we are one people” — a line that some claim was stated by William Hobson during the Treaty signing but which has never been verified but which has been adopted by the anti-Treaty organisation “Hobson’s Pledge” as the basis of its campaign.

But just as she ignored the last National Government’s role in the establishment of the Tuhoe-based Te Urewa .authority, she also seemed to ignore its role in the passage of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act in 2011.

That replaced Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act, and a judgment from the High Court on Friday conferred Customary Marine Title and Protected Customary Rights under the Act on a number of iwi for a stretch of coastline between Whakatane and Opotiki.

But the decision of Judge Peter Churchman does not impact public access to the coast or fishing quota within the areas defined by the iwi in their application to the court.

However, whitebait fishing is covered under Protected Customary Rights.

Nevertheless, Collins repeated yesterday that National believed the foreshore and seabed belonged to everyone and was owned by no one.

That is more or less what the Marine and Coastal Area Act implies, as was demonstrated in Chruchman’s judgement.

Obviously, many Maori would prefer more.

What Collins is signalling is that she stands ready to conscript National to oppose any extension of Maori rights under the Treaty.

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