Mar 19, 2012

Len Brown: a scab and a racist?

These sorts of stories really annoy me:

A $30-million plus block of prime Auckland waterfront land will lose its marine park designation when it is sold cheaply to Maori as part of a big Treaty deal.

The 3.2ha Takapuna Head site, used by the New Zealand Navy as an officer training school, is being sold back to Ngati Whatua for $13.8m - but the iwi has been given freedom to do what it likes with the land.

At the same time, the Government is close to finalising a settlement with Ngati Ranginui in the Bay of Plenty on the land under two primary schools and Tauranga's new police station.

But local elected officials say they were never properly consulted: Auckland mayor Len Brown has written to Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson asking for a meeting. He said the settlement would "potentially alienate future public access to the property".

"What is more concerning is that this change is being introduced without any formal consultation with the local board and/or community and the Auckland Council," he added.

Firstly, there is no obligation on the government and Maori to consult the Council. Secondly, the status quo will barely change. Ownership will change, but the Navy school will remain and in Tauranga the two primary schools and police station will remain.

What underlies objections to land transfers, or in this case land purchases, is racism. Many New Zealanders have an unfounded fear that Maori will restrict access, develop the land in ways that will negatively affect the community and so on. I’d challenge anyone who operates under this mind set to point to more than one example where Maori have blocked access to previously public land, urupa (cemeteries) and other wahi tapu (sacred) sites excluded. Restricting access runs contrary to Maori values. After all, there is no such thing as private property in Te Ao Maori.

In this particular case, the government and iwi have obtained approval from the Hauraki Gulf Forum. It was the Gulf Forum that secured the areas marine park designation so surely they are the most appropriate group to consult and seek approval from – the Council is secondary.

It's disappointing, but understandable I suppose, to see Len Brown objecting. If the Mayor continues to oppose the proposed deal then he risks perpetuating the current grievance. If iwi do purchase the land, new grievances will not be created. This is rubbish. Will the people of Takapuna be that sore about the navy school site being sold. 90% of the good residents won't even notice and 95% won't even care. 

Basically, this is a non-story. The story should focus on Len Brown's opposition to treaty settlements and his continued drift to the right.  


  1. You know what this is the same attitude in Canada with Natives and land claims in or close to a city. The politicians and the citizens of the cities always cry that crime will rise, property values will drop, there will be unfair business competition (tax issues) and a other host of social ills will befall the city if Indians gain access to land in or close to the city. It is a pure racism, pure and simple.

  2. Morgan, no disrespect, but iwi have in the past restricted recreational access to conservation reserve land that has been included in treaty settlements. Mt Tawawera comes to mind as one example.

    I have grave concerns about the use of such land in treaty settlements and the speed with which they are being 'processed', and I really believe that the treaty settlement process needs to be placed on hold and an inquiry needs to be held as to the volume of conservation land being transferred, with a view to DoC's estate being left out of any and all treaty settlements.

    Access to our recreational estate must be preserved, and public (Crown) ownership is the only way to enshrine it.


  3. Hi Millsy,

    Tarawera is Te Arawa's most sacred landmark. It's waahi tapu. I think it's absolutely fair for Te Arawa to restrict access to approved visitors only.

  4. I feel Morgan, that if iwi had their way, every mountain in this country will be declared 'waahi tapu' and access will be restricted to only those who will pay the big bucks.

    Our outdoor recreation estate must be open to everyone. Can you not see that?

    I am not anti-Maori, I am anti-privatisation.


  5. I think that's a fair opinion, but look, all ancestral mountains are waahi tapu and, from my Maori cultural perspective, I think it's fair that access should be restricted. I agree that our outdoor areas should remain open and free, but that doesn't mean it is unreasonable to restrict access for strong cultural reasons.

  6. Morgan, your piece is misleading, and disrespectful to the many people who played and continue to play a part in protecting Takapuna Head as the remarkable place that it is today.

    The only reason the Takapuna Head site is even available now for purchase by Ngati Whatua (which arguably doesn't hold mana whenua there, by the way), is because a number of years ago the local community fought the Government's plans to sell it to developers. We have the local community to thank ultimately for its inclusion today in the HGMP, not the Forum itself. And if and when the Navy vacate the last piece of land on Takapuna Head closed to the public, it was to be 'reunited' with the rest of the site as well.

    The people who originally saved the land from privatisation and development remain actively involved with the protection of the site (and in the community in general), as are many other local people in various ways, including local school children - hence the strong feelings about the lack of consultation regarding the potential removal of the site from the public domain. To imply that these feelings are generated by racism is ignorant and insulting.



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