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February 2024

Welcome to the first edition of our newsletter for 2024.

It has been a very busy start to the year, beginning with the launching of our ‘We Stand With You’ campaign, both on social media and full page advertisements in the NZ Herald and the Northern Advocate in the lead up to Waitangi Day. Thank you to all who sent messages of support to the coalition leaders as they faced vociferous opposition to the introduction of policies they campaigned on and were voted in to implement. Please continue to send messages of encouragement to Mr. Luxon, Mr. Seymour, and Mr. Peters. Our representatives need to hear our support for policies that restore the fundamental principles of democracy. Their email addresses are:

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon: [email protected]/

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters: [email protected]

Leader of the ACT party David Seymour: [email protected]

Waitangi Day has come and gone amidst acrimony, but the serious issues raised continue to live on. In recent times, the interpretation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as agreed upon and signed by more than five hundred chiefs in 1840, has deviated from its original meaning. These reinterpretations are endangering our core constitutional principles, such as democracy and the equality of citizenship on which it is based. The terms of the Treaty are contained in three simple articles. These are described in the article below: 'The Treaty of Waitangi - a force for unity or division'.

The debate on Treaty principles has become one of the top three concerns of voters. According to the most recent Taxpayers Union-Curia poll conducted from February 1 to February 7, the Treaty is tied for third place, along with health and law & order, as the most important issues influencing voters' choices. Furthermore, 'ensuring all citizens have equal political rights' rated very highly in the scale of importance, with a score of 8.2 out of ten.

Update on the Hauraki Gulf Marine Protection Bill

Thank you to all those who submitted their views on the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill last year. The bill aims to address environmental decline in the Hauraki Gulf caused by human activities. The Environment Select Committee reviewing the bill has started hearing from the public. These hearings are livestreamed and open to the public. Please see below links to the video recordings of the two sessions held in Wellington earlier this month:

1 Feb - 2024/02/01 - EN on Vimeo

15 Feb - Environment Committee on Vimeo

More hearings are to be conducted in Auckland later in February - dates yet to be announced by the Environment Committee.

Not all submitters who indicated they would like to present an oral submission on the bill are being invited to do so. According to the Environment Committee secretariat, the committee has been selective in determining who they want to hear from, ostensibly because of the large number of submissions. Ideally, everyone who wants to make an oral submission should be given the opportunity to do so. (I do hope the committee is not picking “winners”).  

Urgent action needed on Marine and Coastal Area Act!

Applications for the recognition of customary interests in the marine and coastal area continue to wend their way through the court system. On the 12th of February, the Whangarei High Court began hearing applications from 15 iwi/hapu groups who are seeking orders recognising Customary Marine Title and Protected Customary Rights to the Whangarei Harbour. The outcome of these claims could have significant implications, considering that Whangarei Harbour is a busy and popular hub for both commercial and recreational activities. If the judgement in these cases follows the precedent set in the ‘Edwards’ case, the successful claimant groups would be afforded a substantial degree of control over the harbor. You can read more about this below at ‘Claims for customary title to Whangarei Harbour in court’.

In the 'Edwards' case, Justice Churchman controversially ruled that ‘tikanga’ outweighed the requirement of exclusive and uninterrupted use of the specified area from 1840 until the present. If this ruling stands, it is likely that a significant portion of  New Zealand’s foreshore and seabed will be awarded to multiple Māori groups. That is, unless the government swiftly introduces legislative changes to align with the intention of parliament. 

It is important to message the coalition leaders and request  they treat the amendment of section 58 of the Marine and Coastal Area Act as a matter of urgency, in line with their coalition agreement.

To learn more about the issue of tikanga, see the article below 'Tikanga in law – a recipe for chaos?'

FYI - Of late, there have been many very interesting commentaries by various authors. See examples below at ‘Further news, views, opinions………’ Others are posted on the Democracy Action Facebook page.

Thank you! We are very grateful to all who make submissions, send letters to editors, contact politicians, post information on social media, talk to friends and family about the issues we cover. Every action we take as individuals counts towards the whole. As the old truism goes “there’s strength in numbers”. Keep up the good work!

Thank you for your continued interest and support. If you have any suggestions you would like to offer, or if you need further information or help, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

And please help spread the message by sharing our newsletters with anyone who may be interested. You can receive further updates by registering or joining us.

Kind regards,

Susan Short

[email protected]

The Treaty of Waitangi – a force for unity or division?

The anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February is an appropriate time to reflect on the Treaty, and what it means for New Zealand today. Continue reading

Claims for customary title to Whāngarei Harbour in court

Despite the Prime Minister Christopher Luxon promising his government would respond to a controversial Court of Appeal decision made under the Marine and Coastal Area Act, (i.e. the 'Edwards/Whakatōhea' case), the promised amendment to section 58 of the Act as stated in the coalition agreement has not been included in the 100-day Action Plan. It is disappointing this has not been treated as a matter of urgency. Continue reading

Tikanga in the law – a recipe for chaos?

A growing number of jurists and academics are advocating for ‘tikanga Māori’ to be recognised as a legitimate source of law and legal rights. The influence of tikanga on the common law was evident in the 2012 decision in the Takamore v Clarke judgment involving the burial of a man of Māori descent. In that case, the Supreme Court found that where tikanga is relevant, the common law requires reference to tikanga. Continue reading

Further news, views, and opinions...

Please see further items posted on the Democracy Action Facebook page. Continue reading