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Customary Title Destroys Property Law Certainty

Customary Title Destroys Property Law Certainty

ACT New Zealand Maori Affairs Spokesman Stephen Franks today slammed the Labour Government's reported deal to allow customary use rights for anyone, and said that it would destroy one of the jewels of our land law.

"The idea of customary title for anyone undoes 150 years of sensible land law," Mr Franks said.

"One of the glories of the British colonies was the Torrens registered title system, which New Zealand lawyers and surveyors have sold in places like Russia. It means everyone could know who owned and controlled land at any time by checking a definitive public register.

"The right for any malcontent to claim overriding customary use is an enormous step backward. Did the Court of Appeal think of this when it decided to overrule settled law of 40 years standing? I can't imagine that it meant common law rights for everyone to trump statutory titles, but that is a logical outcome if the law is to be colourblind.

"This absurdity is now adopted by the Government and NZ First. Surely someone is going to say `enough is enough'. The property law New Zealand got in the Treaty was certain. The New Zealand Bench and Bar in 1903 understood this, and our Court of Appeal and the Government should have respected their experience.

"ACT will oppose anything that establishes, alongside the Resource Management Act, yet another weapon for busybodies. They will wield customary rights in litigation to freeze land uses in the status quo.

"Even the laughable line in the sand that United Future Leader Peter Dunne is drawing over `public domain' is less dangerous than universal customary rights. At least Mr Dunne's `domain' will be laughed out of court. No one, including United Future, has the faintest idea of what it means - other than being a handy slogan," Mr Franks said.

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