National MP Chris Finlayson has confirmed he will leave Parliament in the New Year.
“It’s been a real privilege to serve as a Member of Parliament since 2005, nine of them as a Cabinet Minister. I have greatly enjoyed my time here, and I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have had.
“I was honoured to serve as Attorney-General, Treaty Negotiations, Minister, and Arts and Culture Minister during the last National Government under the leadership Sir John Key and Sir Bill English.
“Highlights of my time as a Minister include progressing the Tūhoe settlement, reforming intelligence legislation, and representing New Zealand at the International Court of Justice.
“It’s with pride that the National Party in its nine years of government settled over 60 treaty claims.
“I was pleased to establish the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in time for the 100th commemoration of the start of the First World War. Pukeahu provides the setting for remembrance and reflection on our nation’s history of military sacrifice going forward.
“As I have indicated on a number of occasions over the past few weeks, I plan to re-join the bar after leaving Parliament.”
Mr Finlayson will give his Valedictory on 18 December, with his final day in Parliament in January 2019, after a few remaining pieces of work in select committees have been progressed.
The accidental announcement of a Crown-Māori Partnership Office has left unanswered, serious questions about the power of the Office and its influence over policies which will affect all New Zealanders, National’s spokesperson for Crown-Māori Relations Chris Finlayson says.
“We are a third of the way through the Parliamentary term and Crown-Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis has finally, albeit accidentally, let slip some details around the new agency.
“After 10 months of meetings we still don’t know the answer to simple questions like what powers it will have over decisions of government and what its Budget and actual mandate will be.
“And why was it half-announced by visitors to the Beehive yesterday and not by Mr Davis?
“This agency is likely to raise expectations among iwi groups and Māori organisations that they will wield more power over Government policy.
“But is this agency really necessary? It’s embedding a further layer of consultation and bureaucracy based along racial lines into the everyday running of Government.
“The Minister for Māori Development responsible for Te Puni Kōkiri already provides guidance to Government about policies affecting Māori.
“The agency has been announced with an uncertain remit and the power and relationship with the rest of Government ill-defined. Why announce before there is certainty on key matters?
“It is also appalling that the Government thought it was appropriate to have an offender convicted of assaulting a Prime Minister in the Cabinet Office as part of the announcement. Justice Minister Andrew Little’s explanation that this Government is ‘listening to the voices of offenders’ doesn’t make that decision any less galling.
“Why were they invited to attend when other Māori leaders who have worked constructively with the Crown in the best interests of New Zealanders weren’t?
“Finally, will NZ First stick to their principles and veto this proposal?
“New Zealanders are entitled to something better than this half thought through, half announced, agency.”
Crown/Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis has been in the job for ten months but still has no idea what his job description is, National’s Crown/Māori spokesperson Chris Finlayson says.
“Mr Davis has held the Crown/Māori portfolio since October last year, he has conducted a number of hui around the country yet the public is none the wiser as to what he should be doing.
“When asked in the House today what he does, Mr Davis said an announcement will be made soon.
“The Minister has originally said he would take a paper to Cabinet in July outlining what his delegations are, it’s now September and Mr Davis is simply saying it’ll be made soon.
“A year in Government will have passed before Mr Davis has figured out what he should be doing. It’s costing the taxpayer thousands of dollars for a Minister who isn’t doing any work.
“How can he be held to account if no one, not even the Minister himself, has a clue as to what he should be doing?”
Shadow Attorney-General Chris Finlayson is appalled at the open support for the terrorist organisation Hezbollah at a protest in Auckland.
“A protest in Aotea Square on Friday was carried out by members of the Islamic Ahlulbayt Foundation of New Zealand. This is the same group that posted a video on Youtube in which an Iranian official denied the Holocaust and in which others were shown calling for the destruction of Israel.
“Hezbollah is synonymous with extremism, misery and terrorism and it is troubling to see support for such an organisation being openly expressed here in New Zealand.
“This protest amounts to support of a terrorist organisation and must be condemned by all. No citizen of New Zealand should be associated with Hezbollah.
“No one would tolerate a protest by supporters of the KKK yet the authorities are silent about this open display of hatred by members of our own community.
“Something needs to be done to ensure that anti-Semitism and support for terror groups remain unacceptable in New Zealand. This incident must not go unchallenged.”
It is wrong to suggest that the former Government had somehow created a crisis in the judiciary and that the number of District Court judges had decreased, Shadow Attorney General Chris Finlayson says
“I was disappointed, but not really surprised, to see this morning’s inaccurate commentary by Radio New Zealand.
“The news report said the number of District Court judges had decreased. That is false. The legislation increased the cap of District Court judges from 156 when it was introduced to 160 when it passed.
“The 23 pieces of legislation that made up the Judicature Modernisation Bill, passed by the previous National Government, made many important and progressive changes to the functioning of the judicial branch.
“It increased the transparency of our courts by requiring judges to publish information about reserved judgments, gave courts greater powers to deal with meritless proceedings to prevent time-wasting, and allowed courts and tribunals to adopt modern practices, such as digital documents and electronic case files.
“District Court judges and the Ministry of Justice also began work to determine how many more judges would be needed in the next few years. These would be permanent, not temporary appointments. This would enable rational decisions to be made about the future size of the judiciary in the District Court.
“For some years I had been concerned about the number of temporary appointments which raised questions about the independence of the judiciary from the executive. That is why the reforms removed the ability for temporary judges to be appointed.
“It is constitutionally wrong for a person to be given a short term judicial warrant lest it create the impression that judges must please the executive in order to obtain a permanent warrant. Judges must be independent, and be seen to be independent, from the day of their appointment.
“Acting judges can still be appointed so long as they are former judges and have not reached the age of 75. While I have similar concerns about too many acting judges, I felt this was a practical step to ensuring the judiciary could continue to do its important work whilst protecting the independence of our courts.
“This morning’s story was nothing more than a baseless beat up.”
The decision to re-enter the Pike River Mine must remain a health and safety one which does not put further lives at risk, National’s Pike River Re-Entry spokesperson Chris Finlayson says.
“Everyone would like to see the bodies recovered but it’s always been a safety issue – never a political one.
“And the expert advice has always been that to re-enter the mine would put further lives at risk. That wasn’t an acceptable risk then and until the advice says otherwise it’s not an acceptable risk now.
“The Government has appointed a panel of experts to take another look at re-entry. Andrew Little should let them do their job without trying to influence their decision.”
Current National Party spokesperson for Crown-Māori Relations and former Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson says claims that National put politics ahead of achieving a just settlement with Whakatōhea are wrong.
“The agreement in principle negotiated with Whakatōhea is one of the largest ever recognising the severe losses suffered by the iwi over many years,” Mr Finlayson says.
“The suggestion that political considerations overrode the need for a just and durable settlement is wrong and insulting to the Crown and to me personally.
“Throughout my time I worked with Whakatōhea over at least seven years to lay the foundations for a successful settlement. Crown officials also laboured for many years with the leadership of Whakatōhea to get to a position in 2016 where the iwi was invited to enter into negotiations.
“There was nothing rushed about it. Indeed when I attended the commemorations of the battle of Te Tarata in October 2015 I was criticised by some speakers for taking too long to begin negotiations.
“In adopting this approach to the actions of the Crown the Waitangi Tribunal has failed to consider the full history and process of the negotiations.
“The suggestion that the Crown should pay interest is unreasonable. Interest is always paid from the time of the initialling of the deed of settlement and I hope the Crown ignores this recommendation.
“I applaud the statesmanlike approach of Whakatōhea leaders who have welcomed the report and the recommendation that there be another ballot – which was always agreed – to resolve these matters.
“I also acknowledge the outstanding efforts of all Crown officials with whom it was my privilege to work on this very important matter.
“The fine leaders of Whakatōhea who have worked so hard on these negotiations in recent years deserve to be praised for their efforts and I hope that this report doesn’t deter them from seeking a full and final settlement of their grievances.”
David Parker’s attempt to ignore the real and significant encroachment on the rights of elected Members of Parliament is another indictment on this Coalition Government’s track record of a lack of openness and transparency, Shadow Attorney General Chris Finlayson QC says.
“The Attorney General’s rather bizarre and nonsensical attempt to justify muzzling Members of Parliament in the name of proportionality does not pass the sniff test.
“Let’s be clear – this is the price of doing government with Winston Peters. It is nothing short of the Winston Peters’ Self Preservation Bill.
“The Attorney General himself has admitted this Bill will reduce a member’s right to freedom of expression, and ‘have a chilling effect on the expression of dissenting views by MPs.’ The public expects elected members to advocate strongly without fear of being punished by their Leaders for expressing different views.
“His views conclude that hanging on to power at all costs, by restricting the speech of his own Members of Parliament, is more important than allowing them to appropriately and without limitation express the views of their constituents and the public as a whole.
“We expected more from a Government who holds itself up as being the most open and transparent government ever. This is nothing short of a re-run of the former Labour Government, which passed similar Stalinist electoral legislation in their dying days.
“It puts New Zealand in the company of such countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Zimbabwe which have similar legislation.
“It frankly surprises me that the Green Party – given their historically staunch opposition to this type of legislation – continues to support the Coalition Government, when they have done nothing to help them.
"National continues to vehemently oppose this anti-democratic piece of legislation.”
The Labour Party has thrown away six years of hard work and a real opportunity for Māori and regional New Zealand through scrapping the Te Ture Whenua Bill, Chris Finlayson says.
“This is yet another ill-thought through step from a Government which seems intent on taking New Zealand backwards.
“The Te Ture Whenua Bill would have made it easier to get more production from Māori land, creating jobs and boosting incomes in regional New Zealand and Māori households.
“It would also have given Māori greater determination over the use of that land.
“Hundreds of meetings and thousands of hours of work have gone into it because it would have been good for New Zealand.
“Scrapping it makes no sense and like so many of its decisions the Government hasn’t even given a good reason why – or been able to say what they’ll replace it with.
“For a Government which has claimed it would be good for Māori it’s yet to show it.
“Today’s announcement is on top of the Government’s ego-driven rubbishing of Māori leaders from the Iwi Chairs Forum which, for the past nine years, has had a productive and forward looking relationship with the Government.
“This Government’s increasingly antagonistic and paternal approach to these leaders and to Māori issues will only make it more difficult to tackle some of the challenging issues facing New Zealand and Māoridom, including fresh water rights.
“The Government needs to gets its act together and work with Māoridom, not against it.”
Dame Tariana Turia, DNZM and Turama Hawira have been appointed to the office of Te Pou Tupua which was established under the Whanganui River Treaty settlement to act as the human face of Te Awa Tupua, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson and the Whanganui iwi announced today.
Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017 came into force earlier this year. It recognises Te Awa Tupua as a legal person comprising the Whanganui River as an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the sea, including all of its elements.
Te Pou Tupua is a singular role that will be performed jointly by Dame Tariana and Mr Hawira. Te Pou Tupua will act and speak on behalf of Te Awa Tupua and promote and protect its health and wellbeing.
“These appointments were made jointly by the Crown and iwi with interests in the Whanganui River catchment, reflecting our Treaty partnership,” Mr Finlayson said. “I congratulate Dame Tariana and Mr Hawira on their appointments and thank them for agreeing to take on this important role to advocate for the health and wellbeing of Te Awa Tupua.
“This innovative legal framework recognises the spiritual connection between the iwi and their ancestral river. It also provides a strong foundation for the future of the river which will benefit its communities.”
The Chair of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui, Gerrard Albert lauded the co-operation amongst the iwi with interests in the Whanganui River. “It was the vision of the late Sir Archie Taiaroa that the settlement of the Whanganui River claim should result in acknowledgment of both the mana of Te Awa Tupua and the mana of all its iwi,” Mr Albert said.
“The role of Te Pou Tupua as the human face of Te Awa Tupua is of great importance to the new framework that has been created for the Whanganui River and Te Pou Tupua will be engaging actively with the iwi, hapū and communities of the Whanganui River, local government and the other groups as part of its work.”
Te Pou Tupua will also be responsible for administering a new $30 million contestable fund, Te Korotete, which will be available to support initiatives relating to the environmental enhancement of Te Awa Tupua.
Dame Tariana and Mr Harawira have been appointed as Te Pou Tupua for a period of three years.
Notes for editors:Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui is the post-settlement governance entity for Whanganui iwi for the purpose of the Whanganui River Treaty Settlement. The iwi with interests in the Whanganui River catchment who have jointly appointed Te Pou Tupua with the Crown are Whanganui, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Rereahu, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Ruanui and Ngā Rauru Kītahi.
Biography of Dame Tariana Turia DNZM
Dame Tariana Turia was a Member of Parliament from 1996 until 2014. She has been Minister for Whānau Ora, Disability Issues and the Community and Voluntary Sector. She was also the Associate Minister of Health, Māori Affairs, Social Development, Child, Youth and Family, Housing, Corrections, Tertiary Education and Skills and Employment.
Dame Tariana, of Ngāti Apa, Ngā Wairiki, Ngā Rauru, Tuwharetoa and Whanganui is best known for her championing of the Whanau Ora programme and significant tobacco reforms.
After leaving Parliament, Dame Tariana was appointed Chair of the Parihaka Settlement Trust, Pou of Te Pou Matakana, Pou Arahi for the Accident Compensation Corporation, an Assessor for Te Putahitanga o te Waipounamu and an Assessor for Tipu Ora. Dame Tariana has an Honorary Doctorate from the New Zealand College of General Practitioners and sits on the board of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust Board.
Biography of Turama Hawira
Turama Hawira is a highly experienced advisor and educator. He has performed numerous advisory roles with local and central government and private sector organisations, including providing tikanga and cultural advice, and preparing cultural values reports. He has provided advice and presented research on behalf of hapū and iwi claimants of the wider Whanganui-Ruapehu district, including before the Whanganui District Inquiry of the Waitangi Tribunal, WAI 903.
Mr Hawira has been a trustee and director of several hapu and iwi trusts and organisations including chairing the Nga Rauru Iwi post settlement governance entity. He has also been a director of the Morikaunui Incorporation which farms large tracts of Maori owned land in the Whanganui catchment.
Fluent in the Whanganui dialect, Mr Hawira brings vast cultural knowledge and practical experience of the Whanganui River district to the role of Te Pou Tupua.