In 2004, with the Labour Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark was about to pass legislation through the House of Representatives regarding use of the foreshore and seabed. However, it would be fraught with difficulty Labour Member of Parliament for Te Tai Hauauru, Tariana Turia insisted that her people would not have a bar of the changes that would set rules on who had access to what in and around coastal areas. To them this was a major betrayal. Mrs Turia and hapu would go on to claim that the legislation due to go before Parliament that year would negate the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and impact on their customary rights.
For most New Zealanders, myself included, the overwhelming view was that the foreshore and seabed should stay in public ownership. This would be interpreted as not being owned by the Crown as some claimed, but by the people of New Zealand. Any legislation therefore that was put to Parliament that would formalize this, was therefore good.
There was opposition to the legislation as well from National and A.C.T. for whom the philosophical arguments about the extent to which the Government should/should not be involved in land rights issues. Mrs Turia would resign from Parliament as Labour Member for Te Tai Hauauru and go back to her electorate for a mandate to represent them as Maori Party Member for Te Tai Hauauru. This she received overwhelmingly, not least because most Parliamentary parties refused to stand candidates.
However the legislation passed because Labour had 52 seats in the 2002-2005 House of Representatives. It was able to rely on New Zealand First to supply the additional votes needed to ensure that the legislation got 61 or more votes.
The Maori Party formed with Mrs Turia and Dr Pita Sharples as co-leaders. In the 2005 General Election it picked up four seats. In 2008, it picked up a fifth. Since then it has waned, with only two Members of Parliament in the current Parliament. It remained and remains opposed to this day to the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004. On 30 July 2016, the Maori Party announced it would not support Ms Clark’s bid to become United Nations Secretary General. Mrs Turia retired from Parliament at the end of the 2011-2014 Parliament. On 2 August 2016, she announced that she would support Prime Minister Helen Clark for the Secretary General role. The remainder of the Maori Party however refuse to.
I find it frankly incredible that the Maori Party would refuse to support a former New Zealand Prime Minister who on the whole was very good to Maori in her bid to become the next Secretary General of the United Nations. Her compassion for Maori and the respect they held for her was shown in so many different ways. It included having the honour of being allowed to sit next to the coffin of the late Maori Queen Dame Te Atrangikaahu as she lay at state in 2006, as well as speaking rights at the Treaty Grounds, which are often not accorded to women. I find it all the more incredible when one considers that the National Party, which is philosophically the opposite of the Labour Party have been quite enthusiastic about supporting Ms Clark, from the Prime Minister down.