By AUDREY YOUNG
The Treaty of Waitangi and race issues will be prime election targets for New Zealand First, leader Winston Peters indicated last night.
He devoted most of a state-of-the-nation speech to Taradale Rotary to attacking the treaty, the state of race relations, and expenditure by Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Maori Development) on consultants.
This year, Mr Peters has asked more than 40 parliamentary questions trying to get Government ministers to define "the principles" of the Treaty of Waitangi.
It is a phrase referred to in numerous pieces of legislation, usually in the context of its provisions giving effect to or having regard for or taking into account or being consistent with the principles of the treaty.
Mr Peters made his first state-of-the-nation speech at the same Taradale venue 14 years ago.
"Race relations in this country have deteriorated since that speech in 1988," he said yesterday.
He blamed "the politics of separatism", which he said had become an industry and the "biggest single cash cow in the Wellington public relations industry".
In the term of the Labour-Alliance Government, Te Puni Kokiri had spent $5.2 million on consultants, public relations and external advice.
Mr Peters said the Treaty of Waitangi had been held up in recent years as the saviour of the country, "or rather those who portray it in this fashion do not so much hold up the treaty as invoke it as if it had magical powers".
"All manner of bureaucrats at the central and local government level at every department claim to be observing the principles of the treaty, the nature, description, character and shape of which no one knows.
"The country does not need the Treaty of Waitangi - with its principles incapable of expression or commitment to writing - being slavishly adhered to as some kind of constitutional framework for future development.
"We need to put an end to the Treaty of Waitangi grievance industry and platitudinous statements about the Treaty of Waitangi in legislation and regulations."
In the House yesterday, Mr Peters questioned Environment Minister Marian Hobbs about the reference to the principles of the treaty in the Resource Management Act, which was the brainchild of Labour but passed by National in 1991, when Mr Peters was a Cabinet minister.
The act says that all persons exercising powers and functions under it "shall take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi".
Marian Hobbs said it was the responsibility of each local council to establish its own approach in its duty to the treaty, not the Ministry for the the Environment.
Mr Peters wanted to know how local councils would know they were working within the principles of the treaty if she would not describe what they were.
Ms Hobbs then referred to the set of "principles for Crown action on the Treaty of Waitangi" issued by Labour Prime Minister David Lange in 1989.
It sets out five principles:
1. The principle of Government - "The Government has the right to govern and to make laws."
2. The principle of self management - "The iwi have the right to organise as iwi and, under the law, to control their resources as their own.
3. The principle of equality - "All New Zealanders are equal before the law."
4. The principle of reasonable co-operation - "Both the Government and the iwi are obliged to accord each other reasonable co-operation on major issues of common concern.
5. The principle of redress - "The Government is responsible for providing effective processes for the resolution of grievances in the expectation that reconciliation can occur."