Six reasons to be worried about the Treaty
It’s said that laws are like sausages: it’s better not to see them being made.
Certainly, it’s often not pretty.
But the law-making process looks like a textbook compared to settling Treaty of Waitangi claims.
First up, we have a government department, the Office of Treaty Settlements. That’s choc-a-bloc with bone-carving worthy types on a taxpayer-paid mission to fix history.
I tried in my brief time in Parliament to figure out how a government department can ever correct history but never got to the bottom of it.
Somehow, having the taxpayer fork over resources and cash to selected groups today amends for bad things that happened six, seven or eight generations ago.
No one has ever explained to me how that could ever do so.
Not real negotiators
Second, we have the Crown-appointed negotiators. Some are ex-MPs. Others are consultants. They are not real negotiators and they are not negotiating with their own money.
They have no skin in the game. Their job is simply to get agreement.
I well remember settlement negotiator Sir Douglas Graham coming to see me.
He sounded me out about giving a collective of 13 iwi and hapu an ownership interest and control of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours.
I suggested that would also mean an interest and control of the catchment. He agreed that it would. I pointed out that would mean an interest and control all of Auckland.
Sir Douglas suggested to me that was fair and just and that we were no longer living in 1900 when a few trinkets and whatnot would satisfy the natives.
I suggested in return that I was busy sorting out the mess of Auckland’s governance and didn’t need him busy making it worse. That is where we left it.
No doubt some weird and wonderful co-governance model will soon rear its head for Auckland.
Third, we have the minister. His job is to sell the deals to Cabinet.
Only MPs who believed in the process would bother with it. And the great majority do believe in the state’s power not just to fix society but to tidy up history, too.
Fourth, we have Cabinet. It set the mandate for the negotiators but it is invariably loose and leaves the negotiators with wide latitude. As money has tightened seats on councils, co-governance and co-management get tossed into the mix without much thought.
Little scrutiny or debate
The governance of natural resources and local bodies gets rewritten through negotiations without any public debate or scrutiny.
It is actually done behind closed doors, in secret.
The negotiations themselves are driving an extraordinary constitutional adventurism, the likes of what we have never before seen. It is being done outside of any policy framework and with no regard to where it is all going to end up.
Negotiations end up as a fait accompli for the government. It can’t renegotiate what the negotiators agree. That would be bad faith.
Fifth, legislation is drafted to give the settlement effect. Much shonkiness now occurs.
The agreement itself leaves wide legislative leeway and the detail has considerable consequence.
The government is cornered by the legislative process as the drafters explain that that is what they agreed to.
Sixth, we have the parliamentary process. It’s a joke.
There is no opportunity for the legislation to fail or to be amended because the deal has been done amid much wailing and pomp and ceremony.
The machinations and decision-making is done through the negotiations and through the bureaucracy. There is no sunlight.
The settlement goes to the Maori Affairs select committee where the overwhelming majority of members are Maori and all support the settlement process and want it as generous as possible.
That is the opportunity for public input and scrutiny. Good luck with that.
You can’t see Treaty claims being settled. It’s just as well. Seeing the result is bad enough.