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Q + A: Guyon Espiner interviews Winston Peters

Published: 12:56PM Sunday July 05, 2009 Source: Q + A

GUYON Welcome Winston Peters thanks very much for coming in and joining us this morning, we really appreciate that.  Your party, New Zealand First was very instrumental in helping the Labour led government pass the Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004.  what do you think of the ministerial review which has been produced on this issue?

WINSTON PETERS - New Zealand First Leader
 Well if you get a stacked committee that has a predilection or a bias towards a certain outcome, you'll most certainly get that outcome, and that's what you've got, and so we've got a review put together by people who would have had a prejudice towards this outcome, regardless of the law, and it suggests that we don't repeal the law, which is where some of these people started from, they'd rather start all over again on a series of negotiations for an outcome including compensation, without telling you whether that's justified or not.

GUYON What do you think about that option of compensation, presumably compensation partly - perhaps a cash settlement, we're hearing perhaps maybe even 20% of the revenue stream generated from the Seabed and Foreshore, what do you make of that compensation issue?

WINSTON  Well you just heard Hone Harawira repeat it, what their Tariana Turia said, that it was a case of something being stolen, and that's what you compensate people for, without so much as any credible law to back up what she's just said.  Don't forget Judge Hingston's decision was more a case of lore - LORE than LAW. The Court of Appeal said that they could not conceive really of a case going before the Maori Court that would be successful, but despite all that, and despite the fact that the Foreshore and Seabed settled the property in the hands of all New Zealanders, whilst giving a customary right not a title, and that was massively accepted by Ngati Porou and other coastal tribes, you have something never campaigned for at the 2008 election by the National or the Maori Party, now right back in the political arena.  It's a can of worms and for this country's long term future it's disastrous.

GUYON Why is it disastrous, what's disastrous about it, what are the implications Mr Peters of this?

WINSTON Well it's about money and not mana, and it's about certain Maori making claims on behalf of other Maori, other Maori who I might say were happy with the outcome of the Foreshore and Seabed.  Ngati Porou and Api Mahuika their leader was very clear about that, then what you've got is Maori activism, and I might say a degree of liberal and judicial activism, having a great debate again on whether it is a matter of ownership right and privilege to be of one race, and that's disastrous for a country like New Zealand.

GUYON  This report says that customary rights are actually property rights.  What is the implication of that interpretation?

WINSTON Well let me say this, that if you look at the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, the customary right provisions are all the work of New Zealand First, Dr Cullen will acknowledge that, and we argued for that because you can have our past inside a future where everyone is equal, but now you've got something going beyond that, they're not arguing customary right as just a proprietary or a temporary right that can pass on from generation to generation, they're arguing about title, make no mistake about it, they're arguing something separatist, and if that's the way that New Zealand's to go then our future towards the third world is certain.

GUYON  When this Ngati Apa decision came out there was a lot of angst in the general population about restriction of access to the beach essentially.  Was that ever realistic, and is that in your view realistic now that Maori might as a result of this, restrict access to the beaches for the general population?

WINSTON  Well of course it was realistic, I've lived through that, I come from a coastal tribe, we're called Ngati Wai, that means 'People of the Sea'.  I saw Maori kicking people of the beach, including trying to kick my old man off the beach.

GUYON  But it's interesting though Mr Peters, because one of your early briefs as a young lawyer was to fight for Ngati Wai because the Crown was trying to take...

WINSTON  All our land off us, that's right, yes.

GUYON  For public recreation.

WINSTON  That's right.

GUYON So isn't it a bit ironic that you're arguing the reverse now?

WINSTON No no, quite the converse.  I'm the one, and alongside my party, who put in all the customary rights in the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.  So satisfactory was that Bill that neither the National Party or the ACT Party or the Maori Party campaigned against it in 2008, but here we've got post election, a leader, rather naïvely in my view, not needing the Maori Party in government, nevertheless deciding to go into government with them, doing a deal and putting it smack back in the arena.  Well what's to stop the Tainui decision coming back into the arena, or for that matter the whole of the South Island, or the Treelords deal.  I mean all the progress that has been made - and whether you agree with it or not - at least we were putting it in our past, is now again before us, that's the disaster here.

GUYON  What are, in your view, customary rights?  What actually do they confer?

WINSTON Well customary rights are things that every Maori on the coast has understood and lived by for generations on generations, but they never wouldn't mean that there would not be European access, or for that matter Asian or new New Zealander access to the beach, because it's not part of the Maori protocol, but what I've seen perceived from the kind of activism that one sees and hears at the moment, is distinctive separate title.

GUYON  So you really believe that Maori are going to restrict access to the beach as a result of this, that they're going to say to Pakeha, you can't come on here, this is Maori customary land, you can't come on to this beach?

WINSTON Well I've got to believe that, if you've got the kind of argument I just heard this morning, reiterating what I've heard during the week, and knowing what Maori activists believe.  I mean you've heard about the separate court system, the separate prison system, the separate education system, now you've got a separate ownership system, despite the fact that the seabed for example came 197 miles of it from international Treaty.  This is extraordinary and it doesn't help Maori at a time when unemployment is going to burgeon massively, when people take their eye off the real prize and focus on a narrow prize, usually as activist Maori speaking for Maori that they've got no right to speak for at all.

GUYON  Well Hone Harawira did tell us though that no one he knew was looking at restricting access to the beach, it was about mana, it was about customary rights, not about a commercial imperative, and not about restricting access, that's what the Maori Party is saying.

WINSTON  Well he might tell you that, but with the greatest respect I can show you about ten or eleven Maori associations in which he's been a member of or a party of, who've argued the very converse, the very reverse, that Maori should have exclusive ownership.

GUYON  You've argued consistently for quite some time that the Treaty of Waitangi was no way forward to advance the future of Maoridom, but there's no one in parliament who's making that argument now is there?

WINSTON  Oh yeah my argument for years is not that the Treaty of Waitangi's not incredibly important.

GUYON  No but you've argued that it's not a route forward though.

WINSTON Well it's not a route forward if you say that you'll pass all legislation according to quotes "the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi" - end of quotes, and yet neither the judge that came up with that slogan resulting from of course a very silly parliamentary law passed by Geoffrey Palmer at the time - no one has been able to tell me or you, all this time, all universities, all the academics, and all the politicians, and all the judges, what the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are.  This is no nothingism of the worst sort.

GUYON  No one is arguing that line in parliament at the moment, I'm wondering does this give you an opportunity - will you be campaigning on this?

WINSTON Well no one's arguing for the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, they all are, they're all holding hands on this issue.

GUYON Yes, no one is arguing your line in parliament are they?  Does that leave an opening for you to campaign for New Zealand First on these sorts of issues?

WINSTON Oh look I'm on this show because you've beleaguered me all week to come on the show, I'm not here to talk about anything else at the moment, I'm here to talk about what I think is a dramatic, backward, retrograde step.

GUYON  I'm asking you, will you be campaigning on this issue of the Seabed and Foreshore?

WINSTON  No I'm here this morning talking about what the mass majority of Maori at the last election believed was a fair deal, don't forget the Labour Party outvoted the Maori Party two to one, so presumably all their Maori in majority were happy, and then you had the National Party campaign against its presumably most Europeans were against it, but here we've got this massive quandary presented because of naïve backtracking on commitments made to the public.

GUYON And I'm asking you whether the public who agree with you, are you going to stand for election again in 2011 to prosecute that case for those people?

WINSTON Oh look I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, but I'm here today to talk about something I've worked on since I was a very young boy, and someone who belongs to a coastal tribe, but that has a European mother, and understands where this country must go if we are to have any possible first world future.

GUYON There were what 95,000 people who voted for you at the last election, what do you say to them this morning about what your political future is?  Would you stand for election again in 2011?

WINSTON  Look those 95,000 people will know that Winston Peters has never been inconsistent on these issues, when others have been all over the place.

GUYON  So that sounds like a yes to me.

WINSTON  Well you can take it any way you like, but I'm here to talk about the Foreshore and Seabed as we agreed, exclusively.

GUYON  You won't rule out standing again though, you certainly haven't given up your political career?

WINSTON  Oh look we at the last election were dealt a pretty foul blow, you know why that happened.  You know exactly why it happened, but I'm not here to waste time on that.

GUYON  Tell me.  Tell me why it happened Mr Peters.

WINSTON I'm not here to waste time on that.

GUYON You're not wasting your time, those 95,000 people who voted for you are very interested to know what your ....

WINSTON I've no doubt they will.

GUYON This is a great opportunity to tell them.

WINSTON  And I'm certain that they will be interested in this conversation if it was the subject, but I'm here to talk about this tendency for a long time, since the Lange Labour government, then supported by National, of going down a separatist path, which is diametrically against the interests of Maori and English and other New Zealanders.  I say that because you've got creeping into so many sections of our public life, separate institutions and demands for them - no evidence whatsoever of course that they work, and this is a sort of paradox that the American Civil Rights Movement was based on people getting access to the same institutions as the white people had, and we are going down the very reverse path of both America and Barack Obama, and South Africa's great change to Nelson Mandela.  This is not good.

GUYON  That's interesting.  In this Seabed and Foreshore Report they claim that this whole tension is based on a different world view, that Maori saw the Seabed and Foreshore as a food source, and Pakeha see it as a playground.  Do you believe that we do have such conflicting world views in Maori and Pakeha society?

WINSTON  Well how do you construct a different world view when the mass majority of Maori activists I know have less than a quarter Maori in them, and when I know so many Europeans who value the beach for its shellfish, for its contact with nature, and for their love of New Zealand being the way it is, they're totally against the kind of thing you'll see in Tahiti where only one beach is publically owned, all the rest is private - they're not for certain tendencies you see internationally, and I think you actually are belying the truth of the matter.  New Zealand is constructed in the Maori world of many people with a European background as well.  To try and say that this is a purist 1840 racial makeup and make arguments from that is creative in the extreme.

GUYON Have you discussed this issue with New Zealand First, is New Zealand First as a party going to pursue this case?

WINSTON No, New Zealand First was the party that got Labour to make the changes that Maori coastal people would be happy with and that the mass majority of New Zealanders who were fair would be happy with.  That's the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.  It was working.  Ngati Porou said to the Maori Party that if they were going to go down that path they would advise all the people from Ngati Porou not to vote for the Maori Party, but subtly under the table, post election, a deal was done, and you can put up all the defences you like, but the National Party has massively gone back on its commitment to the New Zealand people, since Brash, and which they covertly kept quiet all the way to the election night 2008.

GUYON  Are you still the Leader of New Zealand First?


GUYON And do you intend to fight as Leader in the 2011 election?

WINSTON Look New Zealand First's name comes from the things that matter, what's important for New Zealanders first.  There are many people who have tried to take up our policies, Don Brash did.

GUYON So you haven't given up the ghost ....

WINSTON I said at the time it's one thing to steal a man's horse outside a saloon, it's something else to stay on his back riding out of town, they just fell off it.

GUYON You haven't ridden into the sunset yet have you?

WINSTON No quite, no.

GUYON Alright, that's a good place to leave it, thank you very much for coming in and joining us on Q+A this morning Winston Peters. We appreciate it.

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