Fiery start to foreshore bill hearings

The first day of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill oral submissions ended with a fiery showdown between National and Act MPs.

Tempers frayed throughout yesterday’s session but snapped when Act’s John Boscawen gave a submitter an example of how the bill could reduce his rights.

Wellington businessman Stephen Underwood said that he was concerned at the prospect of private deals between iwi and government for customary marine title.

“But you don’t lose anything,” chairman and National MP Tau Henare protested.

Mr Boscawen pointed out that, as the bill would give successful marine title claimants ownership over non-nationalised minerals, it could, for example, remove ironsands from Crown ownership – to the detriment of all taxpayers.

“You can actually point to the loss,” he told Mr Underwood. “Do you have confidence in a Maori Affairs Select Committee who can’t actually see that?”

Mr Henare, known for speaking his mind, took immediate offence.

“If you have no confidence in the Maori affairs select committee, you know where the door is,” he told Mr Boscawen.

“I will take it up with the Speaker. In fact, I’m on the verge of it right now. If you don’t have any confidence in the select committee, leave, and we’ll get on with the job that we’re paid to do.”

Mr Boscawen defended his statement and said that he would also take the matter up with Parliament’s Speaker Lockwood Smith.

Later, Mr Henare told media that he was “dumbfounded” at Mr Boscawen’s apparent insinuation that Maori MPs on the select committee may be biased.

He said that the Maori Affairs Select Committee was not required to “just accept whatever comes our way… if people want to dish it out, people will get it back.”

Mr Boscawen denied making any such insinuation. He had confidence in Mr Henare as committee chair but said that he was unhappy about the way some submitters were treated during today’s session.

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