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Race row over Act comments on Foreshore

"Racist" and "inappropriate" remarks by ACT MP Hilary Calvert have been condemned by National's key ally, the Maori Party.

Wed, 16 Mar 2011

"Racist" and "inappropriate" remarks by ACT MP Hilary Calvert have been condemned by the Maori Party and Attorney-General.

In Parliament yesterday, during debates on The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, Ms Calvert was disparaging about how the legislation had to take into account Maori rights.

"Tikanga is an 'Alice in Wonderland' word. It means whatever the Queen -- I think it was the Red or White Queen -- said it would mean, no more and no less."

Under the bill tikanga covered inherited rights and interests, she said.

"So we are to believe that this Alice in Wonderland word, a word that can be defined by the person claiming some property in our coastal land, creates legal rights based entirely on the say-so of the claimant. We might just as well ask iwi for a list of what they want and put through a legal transfer."

Later in the evening she questioned Maori rights to relating to the seabed saying it was questionable that historical use any distance from shore happened.

"Historically no one has crawled about the seabed miles from shore... There is just no chance from 1840 to now of anybody holding their breath on the seabed."

The bill repeals the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act and replaces it with legislation that returns to Maori the right to seek customary title to parts of the coastline through the High Court or by negotiation with the Government.

It is supported by National, the Maori Party and United Future, which gives the Government a slender majority.

The bill is opposed by all the other parties.

Today Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia was scathing of Ms Calvert's comments.

"I've come to expect ignorant attitudes and behaviour from the ACT Party, so I am not surprised when they make comments of that nature. We are not allowed to call people racists in here, we are not allowed to refer to those matters in the House. But when someone denigrates another culture then for me that's racist."

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said the remarks were "inappropriate."

"I just thought it went too far," he told reporters.

"I thought they were unfortunate. Let's have the debate on the issues of principle and not stray into areas that are unfair to our fellow citizens."

Also he disapproved of ACT's proposed amendment about access.

"It seems some people are never satisfied about the issue of free access they seem to have this bogey about Maoris wanting to stop access to the beaches and I think it's pretty unfair."

Independent Maori MP Hone Harawira, who left the Maori Party over his concerns the bill did not go far enough, said he found much of Ms Calvert's speech unintelligible.

"I'm offended by a lot of what goes on in this place but if you jumped up and down about everything you'd be jumping up and down all the time. You pick and choose your fights and I think that was the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from someone like Hilary Calvert."

During the ACT Party conference at the weekend a remark was made the party should introduce a policy to "shoot the natives" during a speech by former National leader Don Brash on the Treaty.

Wed, 16 Mar 2011
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Race row over Act comments on Foreshore