Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Winston Peters: Resource Management Act changes will take NZ down path of separatism

Winston Peters focused on the reform of the RMA in his state-of-the-nation speech. Photo / Stephen Parker
Winston Peters focused on the reform of the RMA in his state-of-the-nation speech. Photo / Stephen Parker

Changes to the Resource Management Act are the result of the Maori Party "brownmailing" National and will take New Zealand down the path of separatism, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says.

Mr Peters has focused on the reform of the RMA in his state-of-the-nation speech, delivered at the Orewa Rotary Club -- the same venue where former National leader Don Brash made his controversial remarks on what he saw as a trend to racial separatism.

The NZ First leader said that under the new RMA bill, every council would be required by law to invite local iwi to participate in the formulation of policy plans, including water management plans.

"This is just the starting point," Mr Peters told the audience. "Iwi really want much, much more."

He said the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group had stated goals including ownership of all Crown-owned river and lake beds and the water column.

National had also backed away from reforming sections six and seven of the RMA, which set out environmental bottom lines.

"It is obvious that National have been brownmailed into making policy concessions to the Maori Party. They were bent over a barrel and, not surprisingly, didn't have the backbone to stand up to them.

"The proposed changes to the RMA are a signal flare to the entire country that the two parties are taking us down the track of separatism. We are no longer one people. We are moving towards two separate groups with separate rights."

NZ First supported "common sense" reforms, Mr Peters said, but in the wake of his Northland byelection victory, National had not turned to it for support, instead reaching a compromise with the Maori Party.

Mr Peters said NZ First would remove all reference to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi from the RMA legislation, and rid it of terms relating to spirituality.

"We announce here tonight, that New Zealand First will, in the committee stage of the RMA Bill, move amendments to cut red tape and bring common sense to the RMA. We will do so on one condition, that National will drop all provisions in the bill that provide separate rights based on race," Mr Peters said.

"Our strongly held belief is the Treaty should be a source of national pride and unity and not used to expand the separate rights of Maori or anyone else. Too often the Treaty now divides, polarises and isolates us."

Mr Peters' speech also focused on concerns over record immigration levels, resulting from an "open door" policy, a "highly vulnerable" economy, and National's agenda to "systematically undermine New Zealand's identity and sovereignty".

"This agenda lurks behind a number of issues -- including changing the flag, encouraging foreign ownership and flooding the country with immigrants.

"Mass immigration is directly counter to the interests of most Kiwis in terms of jobs, housing and already overloaded services especially in an age of robotics."

In 2004 Dr Brash's speech at the same Orewa venue led to a heated period of debate about the Treaty of Waitangi.

Dr Brash's state-of-the-nation speech, on what he saw as a trend to racial separatism based on the Treaty of Waitangi, was his first major speech as leader in January 2004 and gave National a lead over Labour.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the speech was "typical Winston Peters mischief making", and the planned changes made clear that decisions would be made by elected councils.

The changes relating to iwi participation were about streamlining the process in which iwi were engaged and consulted with, Dr Smith said.

The provisions were published in 2011, Dr Smith said, disproving Mr Peters' claim that they were included because of the agreement reached with the Maori Party before Christmas.

- NZ Herald

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