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Peters and Brash team up to attack Maori preferences in RMA reforms

Winston Peters and Don Brash effectively tag-teamed at the opening hearings at Parliament of submissions on a government bill to reform the RMA which both believe has made too many concessions to the Maori Party.

Pattrick Smellie
Thu, 07 Apr 2016

One-time political rivals Winston Peters and Don Brash effectively tag-teamed at the opening hearings at Parliament of submissions on a government bill to reform the Resource Management Act which both believe has made too many concessions to the Maori Party.

Brash, a former leader of both the Act and National parties, described as "incomprehensible" a National-led government supporting reforms that he said would give unelected iwi representation authorities a say in local environmental decisions that are currently governed by democratically elected local and regional authorities.

Peters, the New Zealand First party leader, will be substituting for his deputy, Ron Mark, on the environment and local government select committee when it is politically useful to do so. At this morning's meeting he sparred with the committee chairman, Scott Simpson, over the permission given for Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox to attend the meetings without voting rights and on procedural points.

He also challenged the DairyNZ manager of policy and advocacy, Carol Barnao, on her claim to have heard no feedback from dairy farmers opposing what he called preferential rights for Maori contained in the controversial Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which amends the RMA and several other pieces of environmental legislation.

Later, Peters renewed his call to the National Party to offer a broader set of RMA reforms in return for dumping the iwi participation rights negotiated with the Maori Party to secure its support.

Of National's three parliamentary support partners, only the Maori Party would support the bill, subject to negotiating Maori representation rights that Brash claimed were both an insult to Maori and a charter for "bureaucracy, delay and potential for corruption."

The United Future and Act parties oppose the bill for different reasons, making National dependent on the Maori Party's two MPs' support - a fact that Peters is seeking to exploit by claiming National won't work with him on an alternative formulation which NZ First could guarantee would pass with its 12 MPs supporting it.

His offer to work with National comes days after Peters ruled out working on election year policy accommodations with the Labour Party, which would need NZ First as well as the Green Party if it hopes to form a government after the 2017 election.

"During and after the Northland by-election (in March 2015) the National Party said there was no chance of RMA reform if New Zealand First won," said Peters, who won the seat after National's Northland MP Mike Sabin was forced to resign for unexplained reasons."That claim was false," said Peters. "The lesson here for every National Party voter is that your party would rather give separate rights away to Maori than work with me and my team to fix the RMA.

"They'd rather ignore me than help you," said Peters, who sees political potential among disaffected regional voters affected by the dairy downturn.

In questioning DairyNZ's Barnao, Peters expressed disbelief that dairy farmers were not expressing concern about the costs of additional consultation with Maori representatives.

"Where's the democratic component in the iwi authority?" Peters asked.

"I don't know," said Barnao.

In his submission, Brash said the reforms were a recipe for "bureaucracy, delay and potential for corruption" where they gave additional rights "for people with a Maori ancestor."

"It is incomprehensible to me how a National Party-led government could put forward a bill that violates every principle of democratic governance" and its own constitutional commitment to equal citizenship, Brash said.

While supporting government settlements with Maori for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, Brash crossed swords with Fox when she pointed to a recent Waitangi Tribunal report suggesting that Maori did not cede sovereignty in the 1840 Treaty.

"Frankly, they did (cede sovereignty)," said Brash. "Moreover, they have behaved as if they did ever since."


Pattrick Smellie
Thu, 07 Apr 2016
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Peters and Brash team up to attack Maori preferences in RMA reforms