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Patrick Crewdson - holiday-maker, Auckland

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Ironically, I've always found the foreshore and seabed debate a little dry. Partly, my own intellectual laziness is at fault: I've struggled over what 'foreshore and seabed' actually means. John Tamihere gave the best definition I've heard yesterday on the Wednesday Wire with Russell Brown (I produce that show, by the way). The foreshore, Tamihere said, is the bit that gets wet because of the ebb and flow of the tide; the seabed is wet all the time. Simple really, but I doubt I'm the only New Zealander who has been turned off the debate because of nebulous phrases like 'public domain' and 'customary rights'.

It was a great interview with Tamihere actually. He's ever-quotable and an easy minister to like (even if he is conscious of being labelled a house nigger). The best moment was probably when said he understands victimhood, but not to worry, he also understands "solutionhood". Labour's version of solutionhood on the foreshore and seabed is fairly equivocal.

As a condition of support from NZ First, 'public domain' is now gone from the policy, replaced by 'ownership vested in the Crown for perpetuity for the people of New Zealand'. What's the difference? The Government press release kindly quotes the Waitangi Tribunal's view: "The difference is symbolic only, and is most unlikely to have any significant legal implications". Fish and Game disagree though, they say it's actually a "critical constitutional point."

ARENA call the policy illegal, immoral, and racist. The Treaty Tribes Coalition says Maori are having their rights to appeal through the courts taken away. ACT says the Government should call an election to break the Parliamentary deadlock. National says the policy is a gigantic fraud that represents Labour's belief in two standards of citizenship.

The other notable (I don't want to say 'significant') change, is that 'customary title' is gone, replaced by 'ancestral connection'. Thanks again to Mr Peters, Pakeha will also be able to claim ancestral connection, although to paraphrase Mr Brash on Morning Report this morning, "Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaan't see it happening." Australians won't be pleased either, now that the door is open for a kiwi ancestral connection claim against St Kilda beach in Melbourne.

I'm reminded of the situation at Waitangi, when commentators mooted that Ms Clark would have been pleased by the protests, because they showed middle New Zealand that Labour wasn't too chummy with the Murrays. It could be that yesterday's announcement leaves the Government in the mythical centre, not too beholden to Maori but not too conservative either. Of course, another distinct possibility is that they've managed to please no-one at all.

Finally, and unrelatedly, I've got a feature about the Armageddon Pulp Culture Expo appearing in the Herald this weekend (Time Out, page 1, I think). I've been told that it's "good Easter reading".

Update: My article is here.