What does one make of Phil Goff’s decision to withdraw support for the Marine and Coastal Area Bill? Crass opportunism? Genuine concern about the content of the bill? Well I certainly can’t tell.
Although I do not support the MCA on the grounds that the test for customary marine title is far too high – borderline unachievable – I do not support Goffs decision to withdraw Labour Party support. But one has to say that it is a clever end of year move by Goff. The foreshore and seabed becomes a very topical issue during the holiday season and without doubt conversation will pop up around the BBQ, the dinner table and the beachfront about the MCA bill. Goff has ensured that those conversations include his name. He has also stolen some of NZ First and ACT’s thunder and provides accommodation for disappointed Maori who are looking for a better deal. On the other hand the move could be interpreted as a dog whistle to the rednecks. That was my initial feeling I received from the six o’clock news. It was not until I read Goff’s press release that I realised the move was more than just redneck bait.
So which group will see Goff’s move as in line with their interests? Maori or rednecks? Well, plain and simple Maori do not trust Labour on this issue. Goff’s move will be interpreted as divisive politics and a return to the populist 2004 attitude that swept the Labour Party. If his intention was to woo disillusioned Maori he has failed terribly. However, if his intention was to pick up a few redneck votes then I think he has succeeded somewhat. Any opposition to the bill will be seen by rednecks as aligning with their views. Certainly Goff’s rationale (opposition to backroom deals) is in line with the concerns expressed by the likes of the Coastal Coalition. The gross irony is the F&S Act 2004 allowed for backroom deals as well – the Court process became a mere formality.
Although I believe Goff intentions were more complex than laying redneck bait that is all I think he has achieved. I have never liked Goff and now I dislike the man even more. No issue is more divisive and emotional than the foreshore and seabed and I look down on Goff for igniting the politics of division in the run up to Christmas.