Mollifying Maori Party president about discriminatory words would call for much rewriting of NZ law books

Point of Order has plucked a piece of legislation from the law books – the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017 – which mentions the power to enter homes and marae.

It says:

A FENZ inspector must not, except with the consent of an occupier or under a warrant, enter any land or building that is a home or a marae or a building associated with a marae.

We wonder if this is acceptable to the president of the Maori Party.

The Food Act contains provisions on marae food. 

This seems troublesome, too, after the Maori Party’s president was quoted as saying “prejudice” tainted the highly contentious Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill from the time it used a term that pertains to Māoridom.

Really?

Similarly, the Charities Act 2005 might be problematic.

The provisions of a section which defines “charitable purpose” says

… a marae has a charitable purpose if the physical structure of the marae is situated on land that is a Maori reservation referred to in Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 (Maori Land Act 1993) and the funds of the marae are not used for a purpose other than …

Some exemptions are then set out.

Many Maori were reported to be agitated by the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill, which gives sweeping powers to the police.

Actually, every citizen in this country had cause to be agitated because of the haste with which the legislation was enacted and its granting of authority to Police to enter private dwellings without a warrant.

National’s Alfred Ngaro  railed against a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.

“Māori have come to the table, they’ve put forward their concerns but also they have proactively put in the things that are positive to change the Bill, and they’ve not been considered at all. The first statement of concern that was raised is that nowhere in the Bill is there are references to Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” he says.

The Māori Party expressed its deep concern, too, in provisions that enabled police to enter marae without search warrants.

According to a party press release:

The Party’s Co-leader and Te Tai Hauāuru candidate, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer,  is calling on the Government to immediately remove these provisions from the Bill before it passes through the House later today.

“We are gravely concerned about the Bill’s provisions that propose to increase police powers including the suspension of the search warranting process. This is fundamentally undemocratic and a clear case of state overreach,” said Mrs Ngarewa-Packer.

“This legislation represents one of the biggest breaches of our fundamental rights as tangata whenua and citizens of Aotearoa that we’ve ever seen. The state having unlimited powers to enter marae is simply unconscionable.”

Is she saying it’s okay for Police to crash into our houses with unlimited powers, but not on to a marae?

She then got to the heart of matter.  This is all about “sovereignty” of the sort that was exercised by some tribes which defined their boundaries and set up checkpoints during Alerts Levels 4 and 3.

“Whānau, hapū and iwi Māori have demonstrated that we are capable of keeping our own communities safe during this crisis. This provision is driven by the idea that the state has complete authority over our people when this is clearly not true – Te Tiriti o Waitangi guarantees our tino rangatiratanga,” said Mrs Ngarewa-Packer.

Ngarewa-Packer acknowledged Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis’s claim in the House of Representatives that the government had removed marae from the Bill.

But while a Supplementary Order Paper introduced by David Parker removed references to “private dwellinghouse or marae” – she said – it replaced them with “specified private premises”, which were then defined in the SOP as “private dwellinghouse or marae”.

“It is incorrect of Minister Kelvin Davis to claim that the Government has removed references to warrant-less searches of marae in the bill, when actually they haven’t. The intention and effect of the law remains exactly the same,” said Mrs Ngarewa-Packer.

“The Government needs to urgently remove all reference of warrant-less searches of any specified private premises, including marae.

“The right of tangata whenua to have authority over and remain safe within our own homes and marae is not only a fundamental principle of the New Zealand democracy, it also a right premised in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

At Point of Order we are puzzled.

According to One News (publishing an RNZ report), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the reference to marae gave marae extra protection.

 “What the Bill explicitly did was actually make sure that rather than marae being treated potentially as commercial premises, where there are wider powers, to actually narrow it and make sure they had the same protection as private dwellings,” she said.

“That was the intent so that there was no question and that they had that higher – there was that distinction in there.

“But after concerns were raised, there was no question that we would rather respond to that.”

Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said marae would now be treated the same as any other dwelling, which means officers can search marae without a warrant if they believe that someone is breaking the rules of the alert levels.

Beforehand, officers could search marae without a warrant only if that entry was also necessary to give direction to stop any activity of non-compliance.

Davis was not happy with the change.

“Māoridom has to be careful what they wish for – that’s the problem,” he said.

“What this now does is it reduces the protections that were being afforded to marae… our intention was to give marae the best protection that we possibly could.

“We have heard the concerns and we have listened to Māori who think that marae are being particularly targeted and we have made the changes.”

According to this account,  Māori Council executive director Matt Tukaki had pushed to have the word marae removed.

 “The use of the word marae did not need to be there, it denotes a single race and it denotes a single culture,” he said.

He further said he did not intend for that to strip the protections around marae.

He rightly said there had been several amendments and definition changes to the legislation over the previous 24 hours that it remained confusing.

Indeed it was.

That’s what comes of rushing legislation into law without giving legislators or the public time to properly scrutinise it – and improve it.

But it’s something said by the president of the Maori Party that fascinated us, here at Point of Order.

Te Ao Maori News reported that, through a Supplementary Order Paper, the government had made amendments and taken the word ‘marae’ out of the Bill.

The president of the Māori Party, Che Wilson, then is reported as saying:

“Before the inclusion of marae in the Bill meant that the Bill applied to everyone. But from the time that a term that pertains to Māoridom was used it was prejudice.”

We imagine he is thinking of racial prejudice and we should be rid of it.

But it won’t be easy.  To keep him happy a great deal of language pertaining to Maoridom – let’s start with iwi and marae – will have to be expunged from our law books.

 

 

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