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Improvements to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill

16 November 2004

Improvements to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill

“The Foreshore and Seabed Bill will better achieve its objectives of recognising the interests of Maori while maintaining public ownership and access as a result of improvements to be introduced during the committee stages in the House,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said today.

The proposed amendments will be introduced through Supplementary Order Paper and considered under urgency so that the legislation can be passed before Parliament rises for Christmas and New Zealanders can go into their summer holidays certain that their traditional rights to use of the coastline have been protected.

“The government has been involved in an almost continuous process of consultation with the public in the formulation of this policy and has moved to achieve a fair balance between competing interests and to address many of the issues raised by submitters.

“The result will not please the extremists at either end of the debate. That was never going to be possible. But, with good will on all sides, I think we have a solution which can take us forward as a country,” Dr Cullen said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues, particularly in the Maori caucus, for the leadership they have shown in dealing with this issue. They have been instrumental in strengthening the redress provisions around Territorial Customary Rights.

“I would also like to put on record the government’s appreciation of the responsible and constructive approach taken by New Zealand First. Their support for the Bill provides a sharp and welcome contrast to the divisive and destructive tactics adopted by the National Party.”

Key amendments include:

A stronger purposes provision. [Part One of the Bill.] This will now stipulate that the objective of the Act is to preserve the public foreshore and seabed in perpetuity as the common heritage of all New Zealanders in a way that enables the protection by the Crown of the public foreshore and seabed on behalf of all the people of New Zealand, including the protection of the association of whanau, hapu, and iwi with areas of the public foreshore and seabed.

The removal of ancestral connection orders. [Part Three.] These were widely criticised by Maori as having limited practical effect. The traditional association of Maori with the foreshore and seabed is now recognised in the Bill’s purpose provision. More effective consultation with local Maori over the coastal area is also being addressed in the review of the Resource Management Act.

Territorial customary rights. [Part Two.] Clarification of the criteria to be applied to applications for territorial customary rights. The claimed rights must have existed in 1840 and have continued to exist substantially uninterrupted to the present day, be physical rather than intangible in nature and have involved the exclusive use and occupation of the relevant area. Applicants must also be able to demonstrate that they have had continuous title to a significant part of the dry land contiguous to the foreshore and seabed.

These changes are consistent with expert evidence to the select committee.

Where the High Court has found that a group holds territorial customary rights, it can at the group’s request direct the establishment of a Foreshore and Seabed Reserve. The Reserve will be held for the common use and benefit of the people of New Zealand and will acknowledge the guardianship status of the group. The Board of the Reserve will operate within the statutory framework of the RMA. Its tasks will include the preparation of a management plan which the local authority must recognise and provide for.

The model borrows from Part 17 of the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993.

Where a territorial customary rights finding is made and the group does not seek the establishment of a reserve, the High Court shall refer the finding to Ministers to discuss other redress options.

Any agreement with groups opting to negotiate directly with the government, as Ngati Porou and Te Whanua-a-Apanui are currently doing, will have to be registered with the High Court.

Customary rights orders. [Part Three.] Clarification that these must be based on tangible activities, uses and practices and cannot be issued simply in response to cultural or spiritual associations.

Reclaimed land. [Part Five.] The Bill removes the ability to vest fee simple title when land is reclaimed and allows only for the granting of a lease for a maximum of 50 years. This caused concern to both the ports and many local authorities which argued that the 50 year limit provided inadequate security.

These concerns will be addressed by giving the port companies an automatic right to renew their leases on existing terms and conditions where the land is needed for port infrastructure and giving existing leaseholders priority in applying for a lease extension. Exemptions will also be granted for reclamations for which resource consent was given before the enactment of the Bill or which are covered by a special statute or legal agreement.

Copies of the full set of proposed amendments will be available to the members of the press gallery from the Bills Office later in the day.

ENDS


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