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Policy guarantees access, supports Maori rights

7 April 2004 Media Statement

Foreshore seabed policy guarantees access, supports Maori rights

“The Foreshore and Seabed Bill the government will table tomorrow improves on the proposals we released in December and delivers four square on our promise to protect public access and guarantee public ownership,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said today.

“The four principles we outlined at the beginning of this exercise - access, regulation, protection and certainty - remain. But as we have sought to give legislative expression to these objectives, and to secure a parliamentary majority for the Bill, we have fine-tuned the detail.

“The result is a much clearer, more familiar, more transparent and less bureaucratic framework which is well-balanced and will simultaneously guarantee access and recognise Maori customary interests while protecting the environment and safeguarding against any inappropriate profit-taking.

“The government consulted exhaustively with the public in the run up to our December announcement and promised that we would continue to consult and to listen throughout the policy-making process.

“We also deliberately held back final decisions until we had received the report of the Waitangi Tribunal and, as the attached analysis of the main changes shows, have taken on board some of the Tribunal’s advice,” Dr Cullen said.

“We have simplified and streamlined the processes relating to customary rights after discussions with the Maori caucus and have created an opportunity through the High Court to seek redress from the government for territorial rights claimants might have held but for the fact that the Bill vests the foreshore and seabed in the Crown.

“Claimant groups must be able to establish an association with the relevant area dating back substantially uninterrupted to 1840. The same basic rules will apply to any non-Maori group seeking recognition of customary use rights.”

The other principal changes were essentially changes of nomenclature.

Dr Cullen said the Bill represented the government’s response to the Court of Appeal decision last June that the Maori Land Court could hear claims into the foreshore and seabed.

The dilemma this had created for the government was that the Maori Land Court would have had to apply the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act which was intended for dry land only and was incapable of recognising a property right without creating the potential for full fee simple title.

“That was an unintended consequence of the Act and required legislative intervention to make the law reflect the intentions of Parliament,” he said. “To enable the Maori Land Court to perform its role, we are equipping it with a new jurisdiction to award ancestral connection and customary rights orders.

“The changes we are announcing today will not satisfy everyone. I doubt that is possible given the contentious and complex nature of the issues involved. But they do go a long way to addressing the concerns that have been raised.

“I hope that people examine closely the package and how the components of it intersect before leaping to judgement. It is important for New Zealand’s future that we use the debate this has provoked to bring us closer together as a nation rather than let the extremists on both sides use it to tear us apart.”


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