National have cocked up the Kermadec Sanctuary. They seem to have rushed the announcement to give John Key a bit of glory in a speech to the UN. And Nick Smith seems to have a real problem with consulting with Maori.
The ACT party have pulled their support due to lack of due diligence over existing fishing rights as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.
There has been suggestions that the Maori Party could take things further and withdraw from their guaranteed support of the current Government. I think that’s unlikely, stable government has been a major selling point for the Maori Party. But they have leverage.
RNZ political editor Jane Patterson writes in Govt seeks safe harbour over Kermadecs controversy
The row over the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary is not about getting the legislation over the line, it is about National allowing the Māori Party to save face and keep the two parties’ confidence and supply agreement in place.
The last thing National would want is to enter into such a controversy, a year out from a general election with race relations still a delicate balance, and the Māori Party a present and potentially future support partner.
But it only has itself to blame for the lack of true consultation.
Prime Minister John Key announced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary with great flourish at the United Nations last year.
But a September 2015 Cabinet Paper from the Environment Minister Nick Smith, pays mere lip service to the treaty issues; it describes the fishing quota held by the Crown and TOKM (effectively set at zero percent) as “an administrative quirk”, and states no compensation should be given because with no fishing activity, there is no loss.
The paper goes on to say options would need to be “carefully considered” with TOKM, to ensure there is no “perceived or actual undermining” of the 1992 settlement.
It is obvious from the paper the government had no intention of consulting either TOKM, or the two far north iwi recognised as tangata whenua, before the Prime Minister’s announcement in New York – it also came out of the blue for the Māori Party.
Things have got progressively worse, to the extent that Key put the Sanctuary legislation on hold until the mess is sorted out.
The Māori Party has now been brought in as a broker at the request of the Prime Minister, which in itself shows National recognises the political risk in letting this spiral out of control.
National needs to ensure they have the Maori party as a support option after next year’s election.
The Sanctuary has created an unusual political situation.
The government has the support of the Greens to pass the legislation. Even with that party’s strong position on treaty issues in the last ten years in particular, it is, at heart, an environmental party.
The Greens will vote for the sanctuary even if that causes some tensions with its Māori MPs or supporters.
Labour, as a supporter of the sanctuary, is in a similar position and will manage any internal tensions with its Māori caucus – the last thing it needs in the lead-up to the election is to become embroiled in a racially charged debate and alienate its Māori vote.
So there’s a lot of careful negotiating around these issues required from several parties.
However Nick Smith.
Smith has been at the centre of the Government mismanagement of housing issues too, and that could really damage National.
When will we see an announcement that he won’t be standing again next year? Will that be too late?