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Seabed ownership row 'dangerous' for NZers

Seabed ownership row 'dangerous' for NZers

United Future leader, Peter Dunne, today outlined the serious consequences for New Zealand, if the row over ownership of the nation's seabeds and foreshores becomes a protracted legal wrangle.

Reiterating his party's support for any fast-track Government legislation to clarify the issue, Mr Dunne said the paramount consideration was the right of all New Zealanders - 'and it scarcely needs saying, that includes Maori' - to play and work freely in New Zealand's watery environment.

"As has been famously said elsewhere, New Zealand is a pluvial nation, with many lakes and rivers and is surrounded by sea. Any hint of a threat to restrict our right to access those areas - which is part of the national identity - must be strongly resisted," he said.

"But there are several other considerations that would be derailed by a lengthy legal battle over the ownership of these assets.

"For example, fishing interests, including Maori, are trying to develop an aquaculture industry potentially worth a billion dollars a year; environmentalists are trying to establish marine reserves around our coastline; boaties want to tie up at coastal marinas; tourism operators want to take their customers down our rivers, across our lakes and to offer them the chance to throw a fishing line into the water.

"All these activities would be stalled or disrupted if the issue is not resolved quickly.

"Of course Maori have the right to clarify what their customary usage rights are, but lengthy and costly legal battles, in my opinion, are not the way to resolve those rights nor, as Associate Maori Affairs Minister John Tamihere has said, should that right be asserted by creating a wrong elsewhere," said Mr Dunne.

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